Skip to main content

Full text of "Orthodoxy"

See other formats






Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 

in  2011  with  funding  from 

University  of  Toronto 




















































































7,  O  5,   CANADA, 

I       13  1931 

I  117 

First  published  in 


.     1908 



.     1908 



.     1909 






■•     1915 



.     1919 



..     1921 



..     1924 



..     1926 

First  Published  in 

"  The  Week-Er 


brary ' 

in  1927 





Introduction  in  Defence  of  Every 
thing  Else 

II.     The  Maniac 

III.  The  Suicide  of  Thought  .    .     . 

IV.  The  Ethics  of  Elfland     .     .     . 
V.  The  Flag  of  the  World  .     . 

VI.  The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

VII.  The  Eternal  Revolution  .     .     . 

VIII.  The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy  .     . 

IX.  Authority  and  the  Adventurer 












—  ■'■■■'  "  -^  ■ 


Chapter  I — Introduction  in  Defence  of 
Everything  Else 

THE  only  possible  excuse  for  this 
book  is  that  it  is  an  answer  to  a 
challenge.  Even  a  bad  shot  is 
dignified  when  he  accepts  a  duel. 
When  some  time  ago  I  published  a  series  of 
hasty  but  sincere  papers,  under  the  name  of 
<c  Heretics,"  several  critics  for  whose  intellect  I 
have  a  warm  respect  (I  may  mention  specially 
Mr.  G.  S.  Street)  said  that  it  was  all  very  well 
for  me  to  tell  everybody  to  affirm  his  cosmic 
theory,  but  that  1  had  carefully  avoided  sup- 
porting my  precepts  with  example.  "  I  will 
begin  to  worry  about  my  philosophy,"  said  Mr. 
Street,  "  when  Mr.  Chesterton  has  given  us 
his."  It  was  perhaps  an  incautious  suggestion 
to  make  to  a  person  only  too  ready  to  write 
books  upon  the  feeblest  provocation.  But 
after  all,  though  Mr.  Street  has  inspired  and 
created  this  book,  he  need  not  read  it.  If  he 
does  read  it,  he  will  find  that  in  its  pages  1  have 
attempted  in  a  vague  and  personal  way,  in  a 
set  of  mental  pictures  rather  than  in  a  series  of 



deductions,  to  state  the  philosophy  in  which  I 
have  come  to  believe.  I  will  not  call  it  my 
philosophy  ;  for  I  did  not  make  it.  God  and 
humanity  made  it  ;  and  it  made  me. 

I  have  often  had  a  fancy  for  writing  a 
romance  about  an  English  yachtsman  who 
slightly  miscalculated  his  course  and  discovered 
England  under  the  impression  that  it  was  a  new 
island  in  the  South  Seas.  I  always  find,  how- 
ever, that  I  am  either  too  busy  or  too  lazy  to 
write  this  fine  work,  so  I  may  as  well  give  it 
away  for  the  purposes  of  philosophical  illus- 
tration. There  will  probably  be  a  general  im- 
pression that  the  man  who  landed  (armed  to  the 
teeth  and  talking  by  signs)  to  plant  the  British 
flag  on  that  barbaric  temple  which  turned  out  to 
be  the  Pavilion  at  Brighton,  felt  rather  a  fool. 
I  am  not  here  concerned  to  deny  that  he  looked 
a  fool.  But  if  you  imagine  that  he  felt  a  fool,  or 
at  any  rate  that  the  sense  of  folly  was  his  sole  or 
his  dominant  emotion,  then  you  have  not  studied 
with  sufficient  delicacy  the  rich  romantic  nature 
of  the  hero  of  this  tale.  His  mistake  was  really 
a  most  enviable  mistake  ;  and  he  knew  it,  if  he 
was  the  man  I  take  him  for.  What  could  be 
more  delightful  than  to  have  in  the  same  few 
minutes  all  the  fascinating  terrors  of  going 
abroad  combined  with  all  the  humane  security 


In  Defence  of  Everything  Else 

of  coming  home  again  ?  What  could  be  better 
than  to  have  all  the  fun  of  discovering  South 
Africa  without  the  disgusting  necessity  of 
landing  there  ?  What  could  be  more  glorious 
than  to  brace  one's  self  up  to  discover  New 
South  Wales  and  then  realize,  with  a  gush  of 
happy  tears,  that  it  was  really  old  South  Wales. 
This  at  least  seems  to  me  the  main  problem 
for  philosophers,  and  is  in  a  manner  the  main 
problem  of  this  book.  How  can  we  contrive 
to  be  at  once  astonished  at  the  world  and  yet  at 
home  in  it  ?  How  can  this  queer  cosmic  town, 
with  its  many-legged  citizens,  with  its  monstrous 
and  ancient  lamps,  how  can  this  world  give  us  at 
once  the  fascination  of  a  strange  town  and  the 
comfort  and  honour  of  being  our  own  town  ? 
To  show  that  a  faith  or  a  philosophy  is  true 
from  every  standpoint  would  be  too  big  an 
undertaking  even  for  a  much  bigger  book  than 
this ;  it  is  necessary  to  follow  one  path  of 
argument  ;  and  this  is  the  path  that  I  here 
propose  to  follow.  I  wish  to  set  forth  my 
faith  as  particularly  answering  this  double 
spiritual  need,  the  need  for  that  mixture  of  the 
familiar  and  the  unfamiliar  which  Christendom 
has  rightly  named  romance.  For  the  very 
word  "  romance "  has  in  it  the  mystery  and 
ancient   meaning   of  Rome.     Any  one   setting 



out  to  dispute  anything  ought  always  to  begin 
by  saying  what  he  does  not  dispute.  Beyond 
stating  what  he  proposes  to  prove  he  should 
always  state  what  he  does  not  propose  to 
prove.  The  thing  I  do  not  propose  to  prove, 
the  thing  I  propose  to  take  as  common  ground 
between  myself  and  any  average  reader,  is  this 
desirability  of  an  active  and  imaginative  life, 
picturesque  and  full  of  a  poetical  curiosity,  a 
life  such  as  western  man  at  any  rate  always 
seems  to  have  desired.  If  a  man  says  that 
extinction  is  better  than  existence  or  blank 
existence  better  than  variety  and  adventure, 
then  he  is  not  one  of  the  ordinary  people  to 
whom  I  am  talking.  If  a  man  prefers  nothing 
I  can  give  him  nothing.  But  nearly  all  people 
I  have  ever  met  in  this  western  society  in 
which  I  live  would  agree  to  the  general 
proposition  that  we  need  this  life  of  practical 
romance  ;  the  combination  of  something  that 
is  strange  with  something  that  is  secure.  We 
need  so  to  view  the  world  as  to  combine  an 
idea  of  wonder  and  an  idea  of  welcome.  We 
need  to  be  happy  in  this  wonderland  without 
once  being  merely  comfortable.  It  is  this 
achievement  of  my  creed  that  I  shall  chiefly 
pursue  in  these  pages. 

But  I  have  a  peculiar  reason  for  mentioning 

In  Defence  of  Everything   Else, 

the  man  in  a  yacht,  who  discovered  England. 
For  I  am  that  man  in  a  yacht.  I  discovered 
England.  I  do  not  see  how  this  book  can 
avoid  being  egotistical  ;  and  I  do  not  quite  see 
(to  tell  the  truth)  how  it  can  avoid  being  dull. 
Dullness  will,  however,  free  me  from  the  charge 
which  I  most  lament  ;  the  charge  of  being 
flippant.  Mere  light  sophistry  is  the  thing  that 
I  happen  to  despise  most  of  all  things,  and  it  is 
perhaps  a  wholesome  fact  that  this  is  the  thing 
of  which  I  am  generally  accused.  I  know 
nothing  so  contemptible  as  a  mere  paradox  ;  a 
mere  ingenious  defence  of  the  indefensible.  If 
it  were  true  (as  has  been  said)  that  Mr.  Bernard 
Shaw  lived  upon  paradox,  then  he  ought  to  be  a 
mere  common  millionaire  ;  for  a  man  of  his 
mental  activity  could  invent  a  sophistry  every  six 
minutes.  It  is  as  easy  as  lying  ;  because  it  is 
lying.  The  truth  is,  of  course,  that  Mr. 
Shaw  is  cruelly  hampered  by  the  fact  that  he 
cannot  tell  any  lie  unless  he  thinks  it  is  the 
truth.  I  find  myself  under  the  same  intoler- 
able bondage.  I  never  in  my  life  said  any- 
thing merely  because  I  thought  it  funny  ; 
though,  of  course,  I  have  had  ordinary  human 
vain-glory,  and  may  have  thought  it  funny 
because  I  had  said  it.  It  is  one  thing  to  describe 
an   interview    with    a    gorgon    or    a  griffin,    a 



creature  who  does  not  exist.  It  is  another 
thing  to  discover  that  the  rhinoceros  does 
exist  and  then  take  pleasure  in  the  fact  that  he 
looks  as  if  he  didn't.  One  searches  for  truth, 
but  it  may  be  that  one  pursues  instinctively 
the  more  extraordinary  truths.  And  I  offer  this 
book  with  the  heartiest  sentiments  to  all  the 
jolly  people  who  hate  what  I  write,  and  regard 
it  (very  justly,  for  all  I  know),  as  a  piece  of 
poor  clowning  or  a  single  tiresome  joke. 

For  if  this  book  is  a  joke  it  is  a  joke  against 
me.  I  am  the  man  who  with  the  utmost  daring 
discovered  what  had  been  discovered  before. 
If  there  is  an  element  of  farce  in  what  follows, 
the  farce  is  at  my  own  expense  ;  for  this  book 
explains  how  I  fancied  I  was  the  first  to  set 
foot  in  Brighton  and  then  found  I  was  the  last. 
It  recounts  my  elephantine  adventures  in  pursuit 
of  the  obvious.  No  one  can  think  my  case 
more  ludicrous  than  I  think  it  myself;  no 
reader  can  accuse  me  here  of  trying  to  make  a 
fool  of  him  :  I  am  the  fool  of  this  story,  and 
no  rebel  shall  hurl  me  from  my  throne.  I 
freely  confess  all  the  idiotic  ambitions  of  the 
end  of  the  nineteenth  century.  I  did,  like  all 
other  solemn  little  boys,  try  to  be  in  advance 
of  the  age.  Like  them  I  tried  to  be  some  ten 
minutes  in  advance  of  the  truth.     And  I  found 


///  Defence  of  Everything  Else 

that  I  was  eighteen  hundred  years  behind  it. 
I  did  strain  my  voice  with  a  painfully  juvenile 
exaggeration  in  uttering  my  truths.  And  I  was 
punished  in  the  fittest  and  funniest  way,  for  I 
have  kept  my  truths  :  but  I  have  discovered, 
not  that  they  were  not  truths,  but  simply  that 
they  were  not  mine.  When  I  fancied  that  I 
stood  alone  1  was  really  in  the  ridiculous  position 
of  being  backed  up  by  all  Christendom.  It 
may  be,  Heaven  forgive  me,  that  I  did  try  to 
be  original  ;  but  I  only  succeeded  in  inventing 
all  by  myself  an  inferior  copy  of  the  existing 
traditions  of  civilized  religion.  The  man  from 
the  yacht  thought  he  was  the  first  to  find 
England ;  I  thought  I  was  the  first  to  find 
Europe.  I  did  try  to  found  a  heresy  of  my 
own  ;  and  when  I  had  put  the  last  touches  to 
it,  I  discovered  that  it  was  orthodoxy. 

It  may  be  that  somebody  will  be  entertained 
by  the  account  of  this  happy  fiasco.  It  might 
amuse  a  friend  or  an  enemy  to  read  how  I 
gradually  learnt  from  the  truth  of  some  stray 
legend  or  from  the  falsehood  of  some  dominant 
philosophy,  things  that  I  might  have  learnt 
from  my  catechism — if  I  had  ever  learnt  it. 
There  may  or  may  not  be  some  entertainment 
in  reading  how  I  found  at  last  in  an  anarchist 
club  or  a  Babylonian  temple  what  I  might  have 

17  B 


found  in  the  nearest  parish  church.  If  any  one 
is  entertained  by  learning  how  the  flowers  of 
the  field  or  the  phrases  in  an  omnibus,  the 
accidents  of  politics  or  the  pains  of  youth  came 
together  in  a  certain  order  to  produce  a  certain 
conviction  of  Christian  orthodoxy,  he  may 
possibly  read  this  book.  But  there  is  in  every- 
thing a  reasonable  division  of  labour.  I  have 
written  the  book,  and  nothing  on  earth  would 
induce  me  to  read  it 

I  add  one  purely  pedantic  note  which  comes, 
as  a  note  naturally  should,  at  the  beginning  of 
the  book.  These  essays  are  concerned  only  to 
discuss  the  actual  fact  that  the  central  Christian 
theology  (sufficiently  summarized  in  the 
Apostles'  Creed)  is  the  best  root  of  energy  and 
sound  ethics.  They  are  not  intended  to  discuss 
the  very  fascinating  but  quite  different  question 
of  what  is  the  present  seat  of  authority  for  the 
proclamation  of  that  creed.  When  the  word 
"orthodoxy"  is  used  here  it  means  the  Apostles' 
Creed,  as  understood  by  everybody  calling  him- 
self Christian  until  a  very  short  time  ago  and 
the  general  historic  conduct  of  those  who  held 
such  a  creed.  I  have  been  forced  by  mere  space 
to  confine  myself  to  what  I  have  got  from  this 
creed  ;  I  do  not  touch  the  matter  much  disputed 
among  modern  Christians,  of  where  we  ourselves 


///  Defence  of  Everything   Else 

got  it.  This  is  not  an  ecclesiastical  treatise  but 
a  sort  of  slovenly  autobiography.  But  if  any 
one  wants  my  opinions  about  the  actual  nature 
of  the  authority,  Mr.  G.  S.  Street  has  only  to 
throw  me  another  challenge,  and  I  will  write 
him  another  book. 


Chapter  II — Tlie  Maniac 

THOROUGHLY      worldly     people 
never  understand  even  the  world  ; 
they    rely    altogether    on   a     few 
cynical    maxims     which     are    not 
true.       Once    I    remember    walking    with    a 
prosperous    publisher,    who    made    a    remark 
which  I  had  often  heard  before  ;  it  is,  indeed, 
almost    a  motto  of  the   modern  world.      Yet 
I    had    heard    it  once    too    often,    and    I    saw 
suddenly  that  there  was    nothing  in    it.     The 
publisher    said  of  somebody,  "  That  man  will 
get    on  ;     he    believes    in    himself."     And  I 
remember  that  as  I  lifted  my  head  to  listen,  my 
eye  caught  an  omnibus  on  which  was  written 
"  Hanwell."     I  said  to  him,  "  Shall  I  tell  you 
where  the  men  are  who  believe  most  in  them- 
selves ?     For  I  can  tell  you.     I  know  of  men 
who  believe  in  themselves  more  colossally  than 
Napoleon  or  Caesar.     I  know  where  flames  the 
fixed  star  of  certainty  and  success.     I  can  guide 
you  to   the  thrones  of  the  Super-men.     The 
men  who  really  believe  in  themselves  are  all  in 
lunatic  asylums."     He  said  mildly  that  there 
were  a  good  many  men  after  all  who  believed  in 
themselves  and  who  were  not  in  lunatic  asylums. 


The  Maniac 

"  Yes,  there  are,"  I   retorted,  "  and   you  of  all 
men  ought  to  know  them.     That  drunken  poet 
from    whom    you    would    not    take    a    dreary 
tragedy,  he  believed  in  himself.     That  elderly 
minister  with  an   epic   from    whom  you  were 
hiding  in  a  back  room,  he  believed  in  himself. 
If    you    consulted    your    business    experience 
instead  of  your  ugly  individualistic  philosophy, 
you  would  know  that  believing  in  himself  is 
one  of  the  commonest  signs  of  a  rotter.     Actors 
who    can't    act    believe    in    themselves  ;  and 
debtors    who    won't    pay.     It  would  be  much 
truer    to    say    that    a    man    will  certainly    fail 
because  he  believes  in  himself.     Complete  self- 
confidence  is  not  merely  a  sin  ;  complete  self- 
confidence  is  a  weakness.     Believing  utterly  in 
one's  self  is  a  hysterical  and  superstitious  belief 
like   believing  in  Joanna  Southcote  :   the  man 
who  has  it  has  c  Hanwell '  written  on  his  face 
as   plain    as    it   is  written  on  that   omnibus." 
And  to  all  this  my  friend  the  publisher  made 
this  very  deep  and  effective  reply,  "  Well,  if  a 
man  is  not  to  believe  in  himself,  in  what  is  he 
to   believe  ?  "     After  a  long  pause   I    replied, 
"  I  will  go  home  and  write  a  book  in  answer  to 
that  question."     This  is  the  book  that  I  have 
written  in  answer  to  it. 

But  I  think  this  book  may  well  start  where 



our  argument  started — in  the  neighbourhood 
of  the  mad-house.  Modern  masters  of  science 
are  much  impressed  with  the  need  of  begin- 
ning all  inquiry  with  a  fact.  The  ancient 
masters  of  religion  were  quite  equally  impressed 
with  that  necessity.  They  began  with  the  fact 
of  sin — a  fact  as  practical  as  potatoes.  Whether 
or  no  man  could  be  washed  in  miraculous 
waters,  there  was  no  doubt  at  any  rate  that  he 
wanted  washing.  But  certain  religious  leaders 
in  London,  not  mere  materialists,  have  begun 
in  our  day  not  to  deny  the  highly  disputable 
water,  but  to  deny  the  indisputable  dirt.  Certain 
new  theologians  dispute  original  sin,  which 
is  the  only  part  of  Christian  theology  which 
can  really  be  proved.  Some  followers  of  the 
Reverend  R.  J.  Campbell,  in  their  almost  too 
fastidious  spirituality,  admit  divine  sinlessness, 
which  they  cannot  see  even  in  their  dreams.  But 
they  essentially  deny  human  sin,  which  they 
can  see  in  the  street.  The  strongest  saints  and 
the  strongest  sceptics  alike  took  positive  evil  as 
the  starting-point  of  their  argument.  If  it  be 
true  (as  it  certainly  is)  that  a  man  can  feel 
exquisite  happiness  in  skinning  a  cat  then  the 
religious  philosopher  can  only  draw  one  of  two 
deductions.  He  must  either  deny  the  existence 
of  God,  as  all  atheists  do  ;  or  he  must  deny  the 


The   Maniac 

present  union  between  God  and  man,  as  all 
Christians  do.  The  new  theologians  seem  to 
think  it  a  highly  rationalistic  solution  to  deny 
the  cat. 

In  this  remarkable  situation  it  is  plainly  not 
now  possible  (with  any  hope  of  a  universal 
appeal)  to  start,  as  our  fathers  did,  with  the 
fact  of  sin.  This  very  fact  which  was  to  them 
(and  is  to  me)  as  plain  as  a  pikestaff,  is  the 
very  fact  that  has  been  specially  diluted  or 
denied.  But  though  moderns  deny  the  exist- 
ence of  sin,  I  do  not  think  that  they  have  yet 
denied  the  existence  of  a  lunatic  asylum.  We 
all  agree  still  that  there  is  a  collapse  of  the 
intellect  as  unmistakable  as  a  falling  house. 
Men  deny  hell,  but  not,  as  yet,  Hanwell.  For 
the  purpose  of  our  primary  argument  the  one 
may  very  well  stand  where  the  other  stood. 
I  mean  that  as  all  thoughts  and  theories  were 
once  judged  by  whether  they  tended  to  make  a 
man  lose  his  soul,  so  for  our  present  purpose 
all  modern  thoughts  and  theories  may  be  judged 
by  whether  they  tend  to  make  a  man  lose  his 

It  is  true  that  some  speak  lightly  and  loosely 
of  insanity  as  in  itself  attractive.  But  a 
moment's  thought  will  show  that  if  disease  is 
beautiful,  it  is  generally  some  one  else's  disease. 



A  blind  man  may  be  picturesque  ;  but  it 
requires  two  eyes  to  see  the  picture.  And 
similarly  even  the  wildest  poetry  of  insanity  can 
only  be  enjoyed  by  the  sane.  To  the  insane 
man  his  insanity  is  quite  prosaic,  because  it  is 
quite  true.  A  man  who  thinks  himself  a 
chicken  is  to  himself  as  ordinary  as  a  chicken. 
A  man  who  thinks  he  is  a  bit  of  glass  is  to 
himself  as  dull  as  a  bit  of  glass.  It  is  the 
homogeneity  of  his  mind  which  makes  him 
dull,  and  which  makes  him  mad.  It  is  only 
because  we  see  the  irony  of  his  idea  that  we 
think  him  even  amusing  ;  it  is  only  because  he 
does  not  see  the  irony  of  his  idea  that  he  is  put 
in  Hanwell  at  all.  In  short,  oddities  only 
strike  ordinary  people.  Oddities  do  not  strike 
odd  people.  This  is  why  ordinary  people  have 
a  much  more  exciting  time  ;  while  odd  people  are 
always  complaining  of  the  dulness  of  life.  This 
is  also  why  the  new  novels  die  so  quickly,  and 
why  the  old  fairy  tales  endure  for  ever.  The 
old  fairy  tale  makes  the  hero  a  normal  human 
boy ;  it  is  his  adventures  that  are  startling  ; 
they  startle  him  because  he  is  normal.  But  in 
the  modern  psychological  novel  the  hero  is 
abnormal  ;  the  centre  is  not  central.  Hence 
the  fiercest  adventures  fail  to  affect  him  ade- 
quately, and  the  book  is  monotonous.     You 


The  Maniac 

can  make  a  story  out  of  a  hero  among  dragons  ; 
but  not  out  of  a  dragon  among  dragons.  The 
fairy  tale  discusses  what  a  sane  man  will  do  in 
a  mad  world.  The  sober  realistic  novel  of 
to-day  discusses  what  an  essential  lunatic  will 
do  in  a  dull  world. 

Let  us  begin,  then,  with  the  mad-house  ;  from 
this  evil  and  fantastic  inn  let  us  set  forth  on  our 
intellectual  journey.  Now,  if  we  are  to  glance 
at  the  philosophy  of  sanity,  the  first  thing  to  do 
in  the  matter  is  to  blot  out  one  big  and  common 
mistake.  There  is  a  notion  adrift  everywhere 
that  imagination,  especially  mystical  imagina- 
tion, is  dangerous  to  man's  mental  balance. 
Poets  are  commonly  spoken  of  as  psycho- 
logically unreliable  ;  and  generally  there  is  a 
vague  association  between  wreathing  laurels  in 
your  hair  and  sticking  straws  in  it.  Facts  and 
history  utterly  contradict  this  view.  Most  of 
the  very  great  poets  have  been  not  only  sane, 
but  extremely  business-like  ;  and  if  Shakespeare 
ever  really  held  horses,  it  was  because  he  was 
much  the  safest  man  to  hold  them.  Imagination 
does  not  breed  insanity.  Exactly  what  does 
breed  insanity  is  reason.  Poets  do  not  go 
mad ;  but  chess-players  do.  Mathematicians 
go  mad,  and  cashiers  ;  but  creative  artists  very 
seldom.      I  am  not,  as  will    be  seen,  in  any 

*5  b2 


sense  attacking  logic  :  I  only  say  that  this 
danger  does  lie  in  logic,  not  in  imagination. 
Artistic  paternity  is  as  wholesome  as  physical 
paternity.  Moreover,  it  is  worthy  of  remark 
that  when  a  poet  really  was  morbid  it  was 
commonly  because  he  had  some  weak  spot  of 
rationality  on  his  brain.  Poe,  for  instance, 
really  was  morbid  ;  not  because  he  was  poetical, 
but  because  he  was  specially  analytical.  Even 
chess  was  too  poetical  for  him  ;  he  disliked 
chess  because  it  was  full  of  knights  and  castles, 
like  a  poem.  He  avowedly  preferred  the  black 
discs  of  draughts,  because  they  were  more  like 
the  mere  black  dots  on  a  diagram.  Perhaps 
the  strongest  case  of  all  is  this  :  that  only  one 
great  English  poet  went  mad,  Cowper.  And 
he  was  definitely  driven  mad  by  logic,  by  the 
ugly  and  alien  logic  of  predestination.  Poetry 
was  not  the  disease,  but  the  medicine  ;  poetry 
partly  kept  him  in  health.  He  could  some- 
times forget  the  red  and  thirsty  hell  to  which 
his  hideous  necessitarianism  dragged  him  among 
the  wide  waters  and  the  white  flat  lilies  of  the 
Ouse.  He  was  damned  by  John  Calvin  ;  he 
was  almost  saved  by  John  Gilpin.  Everywhere 
we  see  that  men  do  not  go  mad  by  dreaming. 
Critics  are  much  madder  than  poets.  Homer 
is  complete  and  calm  enough  ;  it  is  his  critics 


The  Maniac 

who  tear  him  into  extravagant  tatters.  Shake- 
speare is  quite  himself;  it  is  only  some  of  his 
critics  who  have  discovered  that  he  was  some- 
body else.  And  though  St.  John  the  Evangelist 
saw  many  strange  monsters  in  his  vision,  he 
saw  no  creature  so  wild  as  one  of  his  own  com- 
mentators.  The  general  fact  is  simple.  Poetry 
is  sane  because  it  floats  easily  in  an  infinite  sea  ; 
reason  seeks  to  cross  the  infinite  sea,  and  so 
make  it  finite.  The  result  is  mental  exhaustion, 
like  the  physical  exhaustion  of  Mr.  Holbein. 
To  accept  everything  is  an  exercise,  to  under- 
stand everything  a  strain.  The  poet  only 
desires  exaltation  and  expansion,  a  world  to 
stretch  himself  in.  The  poet  only  asks  to  get 
his  head  into  the  heavens.  It  is  the  logician 
who  seeks  to  get  the  heavens  into  his  head. 
And  it  is  his  head  that  splits. 

It  is  a  small  matter,  but  not  irrelevant,  that 
this  striking  mistake  is  commonly  supported  by 
a  striking  misquotation.  We  have  all  heard 
people  cite  the  celebrated  line  of  Dryden  as 
"  Great  genius  is  to  madness  near  allied."  But 
Dryden  did  not  say  that  great  genius  was  to 
madness  near  allied.  Dryden  was  a  great 
genius  himself,  and  knew  better.  It  would 
have  been  hard  to  find  a  man  more  romantic 
than  he,  or  more  sensible.     What  Dryden  said 



was  this,  "  Great  wits  are  oft  to  madness  near 
allied "  ;  and  that  is  true.  It  is  the  pure 
promptitude  of  the  intellect  that  is  in  peril  of  a 
breakdown.  Also  people  might  remember  of 
what  sort  of  man  Dryden  was  talking.  He 
was  not  talking  of  any  unworldly  visionary 
like  Vaughan  or  George  Herbert.  He  was 
talking  of  a  cynical  man  of  the  world,  a  sceptic, 
a  diplomatist,  a  great  practical  politician.  Such 
men  are  indeed  to  madness  near  allied.  Their 
incessant  calculation  of  their  own  brains  and 
other  people's  brains  is  a  dangerous  trade.  It 
is  always  perilous  to  the  mind  to  reckon  up  the 
mind.  A  flippant  person  has  asked  why  we 
say,  "  As  mad  as  a  hatter."  A  more  flippant 
person  might  answer  that  a  hatter  is  mad 
because  he  has  to  measure  the  human  head. 

And  if  great  reasoners  are  often  maniacal,  it 
is  equally  true  that  maniacs  are  commonly 
great  reasoners.  When  I  was  engaged  in  a 
controversy  with  the  Clarion  on  the  matter  of 
free  will,  that  able  writer  Mr.  R.  B.  Suthers 
said  that  free  will  was  lunacy,  because  it  meant 
causeless  actions,  and  the  actions  of  a  lunatic 
would  be  causeless.  I  do  not  dwell  here  upon 
the  disastrous  lapse  in  determinist  logic. 
Obviously  if  any  actions,  even  a  lunatic's,  can 
be  causeless,  determinism  is  done  for.     If  the 


The  Maniac 

chain  of  causation  can  be  broken  for  a  madman, 
it  can  be  broken  for  a  man.  But  my  purpose 
is  to  point  out  something  more  practical.  It 
was  natural,  perhaps,  that  a  modern  Marxian 
Socialist  should  not  know  anything  about  free 
will.  But  it  was  certainly  remarkable  that  a 
modern  Marxian  Socialist  should  not  know 
anything  about  lunatics.  Mr.  Suthers  evidently 
did  not  know  anything  about  lunatics.  The 
last  thing  that  can  be  said  of  a  lunatic  is  that  his 
actions  are  causeless.  If  any  human  acts  may 
loosely  be  called  causeless,  they  are  the  minor 
acts  of  a  healthy  man  ;  whistling  as  he  walks  ; 
slashing  the  grass  with  a  stick  ;  kicking  his 
heels  or  rubbing  his  hands.  It  is  the  happy 
man  who  does  the  useless  things  ;  the  sick 
man  is  not  strong  enough  to  be  idle.  It  is 
exactly  such  careless  and  causeless  actions  that 
the  madman  could  never  understand  ;  for  the 
madman  (like  the  determinist)  generally  sees 
too  much  cause  in  everything.  The  madman 
would  read  a  conspiratorial  significance  into 
those  empty  activities.  He  would  think  that 
the  lopping  of  the  grass  was  an  attack  on 
private  property.  He  would  think  that  the 
kicking  of  the  heels  was  a  signal  to  an  accom- 
plice. If  the  madman  could  for  an  instant 
become     careless,    he    would     become     sane. 



Every  one  who  has  had  the  misfortune  to  talk 
with  people  in  the  heart  or  on  the  edge  of 
mental  disorder,  knows  that  their  most  sinister 
quality  is  a  horrible  clarity  of  detail ;  a  con- 
necting of  one  thing  with  another  in  a  map 
more  elaborate  than  a  maze.  If  you  argue 
with  a  madman,  it  is  extremely  probable  that 
you  will  get  the  worst  of  it  ;  for  in  many  ways 
his  mind  moves  all  the  quicker  for  not  being 
delayed  by  the  things  that  go  with  good 
judgment.  He  is  not  hampered  by  a  sense  of 
humour  or  by  charity,  or  by  the  dumb 
certainties  of  experience.  He  is  the  more 
logical  for  losing  certain  sane  affections. 
Indeed,  the  common  phrase  for  insanity  is  in 
this  respect  a  misleading  one.  The  madman  is 
not  the  man  who  has  lost  his  reason.  The 
madman  is  the  man  who  has  lost  everything 
except  his  reason. 

The  madman's  explanation  of  a  thing  is 
always  complete,  and  often  in  a  purely  rational 
sense  satisfactory.  Or,  to  speak  more  strictly, 
the  insane  explanation,  if  not  conclusive,  is  at 
least  unanswerable ;  this  may  be  observed 
specially  in  the  two  or  three  commonest  kinds 
of  madness.  If  a  man  says  (for  instance)  that 
men  have  a  conspiracy  against  him,  you  cannot 
dispute  it  except  by  saying  that  all  the  men 


The  Maniac 

deny  that  they  are  conspirators ;  which  is 
exactly  what  conspirators  would  do.  His 
explanation  covers  the  facts  as  much  as  yours. 
Or  if  a  man  says  that  he  is  the  rightful  King  of 
England,  it  is  no  complete  answer  to  say  that 
the  existing  authorities  call  him  mad  ;  for  if  he 
were  King  of  England  that  might  be  the  wisest 
thing  for  the  existing  authorities  to  do.  Or  if 
a  man  says  that  he  is  Jesus  Christ,  it  is  no 
answer  to  tell  him  that  the  world  denies  his 
divinity  ;  for  the  world  denied  Christ's. 

Nevertheless  he  is  wrong.  But  if  we  attempt 
to  trace  his  error  in  exact  terms,  we  shall  not 
find  it  quite  so  easy  as  we  had  supposed. 
Perhaps  the  nearest  we  can  get  to  expressing 
it  is  to  say  this  :  that  his  mind  moves  in  a 
perfect  but  narrow  circle.  A  small  circle  is 
quite  as  infinite  as  a  large  circle  ;  but,  though 
it  is  quite  as  infinite,  it  is  not  so  large.  In  the 
same  way  the  insane  explanation  is  quite  as 
complete  as  the  sane  one,  but  it  is  not  so  large. 
A  bullet  is  quite  as  round  as  the  world,  but  it 
is  not  the  world.  There  is  such  a  thing  as  a 
narrow  universality  ;  there  is  such  a  thing  as 
a  small  and  cramped  eternity  ;  you  may  see 
it  in  many  modern  religions.  Now,  speaking 
quite  externally  and  empirically,  we  may  say 
that  the  strongest  and  most  unmistakable  mark 



of  madness  is  this  combination  between  a 
logical  completeness  and  a  spiritual  contraction. 
The  lunatic's  theory  explains  a  large  number 
of  things,  but  it  does  not  explain  them  in  a 
large  way.  I  mean  that  if  you  or  I  were  dealing 
with  a  mind  that  was  growing  morbid,  we 
should  be  chiefly  concerned  not  so  much  to 
give  it  arguments  as  to  give  it  air,  to  convince 
it  that  there  was  something  cleaner  and  cooler 
outside  the  suffocation  of  a  single  argument. 
Suppose,  for  instance,  it  were  the  first  case  that 
I  took  as  typical ;  suppose  it  were  the  case  of 
a  man  who  accused  everybody  of  conspiring 
against  him.  If  we  could  express  our  deepest 
feelings  of  protest  and  appeal  against  this 
obsession,  I  suppose  we  should  say  something 
like  this  :  "  Oh,  I  admit  that  you  have  your 
case  and  have  it  by  heart,  and  that  many  things 
do  fit  into  other  things  as  you  say.  I  admit 
that  your  explanation  explains  a  great  deal ; 
but  what  a  great  deal  it  leaves  out !  Are  there 
no  other  stories  in  the  world  except  yours  ; 
and  are  all  men  busy  with  your  business  ? 
Suppose  we  grant  the  details  ;  perhaps  when 
the  man  in  the  street  did  not  seem  to  see  you 
it  was  only  his  cunning ;  perhaps  when  the 
policeman  asked  you  your  name  it  was  only 
because  he  knew  it  already.     But  how  mucfi 


The  Maniac. 

happier  you  would  be  if  you  only  knew  that 
these  people  cared  nothing  about  you  1  How 
much  larger  your  life  would  be  if  your  self 
could  become  smaller  in  it  ;  if  you  could  really 
look  at  other  men  with  common  curiosity  and 
pleasure  ;  if  you  could  see  them  walking  as 
they  are  in  their  sunny  selfishness  and  their 
virile  indifference  !  You  would  begin  to  be 
interested  in  them,  because  they  were  not 
interested  in  you.  You  would  break  out  of 
this  tiny  and  tawdry  theatre  in  which  your 
own  little  plot  is  always  being  played,  and  you 
would  find  yourself  under  a  freer  sky,  in  a 
street  full  of  splendid  strangers."  Or  suppose 
it  were  the  second  case  of  madness,  that  of  a 
man  who  claims  the  crown,  your  impulse 
would  be  to  answer,  "All  right  !  Perhaps  you 
know  that  you  are  the  King  of  England  ;  but 
why  do  you  care  ?  Make  one  magnificent  effort 
and  you  will  be  a  human  being  and  look  down 
on  all  the  kings  of  the  earth."  Or  it  might 
be  the  third  case,  of  the  madman  who  called 
himself  Christ.  If  we  said  what  we  felt,  we 
should  say,  "  So  you  are  the  Creator  and 
Redeemer  of  the  world  :  but  what  a  small 
world  it  must  be  !  What  a  little  heaven  you 
must  inhabit,  with  angels  no  bigger  than 
butterflies  1     How  sad  it  must  be  to  be  God  ; 



and  an  inadequate  God  !  Is  there  really  no 
life  fuller  and  no  love  more  marvellous  than 
yours ;  and  is  it  really  in  your  small  and 
painful  pity  that  all  flesh  must  put  its  faith  ? 
How  much  happier  you  would  be,  how  much 
more  of  you  there  would  be,  if  the  hammer  of 
a  higher  God  could  smash  your  small  cosmos, 
scattering  the  stars  like  spangles,  and  leave  you 
in  the  open,  free  like  other  men  to  look  up  as 
well  as  down  !  " 

And  it  must  be  remembered  that  the  most 
purely  practical  science  does  take  this  view  of 
mental  evil  ;  it  does  not  seek  to  argue  with  it 
like  a  heresy,  but  simply  to  snap  it  like  a 
spell.  Neither  modern  science  nor  ancient 
religion  believes  in  complete  free  thought. 
Theology  rebukes  certain  thoughts  by  calling 
them  blasphemous.  Science  rebukes  certain 
thoughts  by  calling  them  morbid.  For  ex- 
ample, some  religious  societies  discouraged 
men  more  or  less  from  thinking  about  sex. 
The  new  scientific  society  definitely  discourages 
men  from  thinking  about  death  ;  it  is  a  fact, 
but  it  is  considered  a  morbid  fact.  And  in 
dealing  with  those  whose  morbidity  has  a 
touch  of  mania,  modern  science  cares  far  less 
for  pure  logic  than  a  dancing  Dervish.  In 
these  cases  it  is  not  enough  that  the  unhappy 


The  Maniac 

man  should  desire  truth  ;  he  must  desire 
health.  Nothing  can  save  him  but  a  blind 
hunger  for  normality,  like  that  of  a  beast.  A 
man  cannot  think  himself  out  of  mental  evil ; 
for  it  is  actually  the  organ  of  thought  that  has 
become  diseased,  ungovernable,  and,  as  it 
were,  independent.  He  can  only  be  saved  by 
will  or  faith.  The  moment  his  mere  reason 
moves,  it  moves  in  the  old  circular  rut ;  he 
will  go  round  and  round  his  logical  circle,  just 
as  a  man  in  a  third-class  carriage  on  the  Inner 
Circle  will  go  round  and  round  the  Inner  Circle 
unless  he  performs  the  voluntary,  vigorous,  and 
mystical  act  of  getting  out  at  Gower  Street. 
Decision  is  the  whole  business  here  ;  a  door 
must  be  shut  for  ever.  Every  remedy  is  a 
desperate  remedy.  Every  cure  is  a  miraculous 
cure.  Curing  a  madman  is  not  arguing  with  a 
philosopher  ;  it  is  casting  out  a  devil.  And 
however  quietly  doctors  and  psychologists 
may  go  to  work  in  the  matter,  their  attitude 
is  profoundly  intolerant — as  intolerant  as 
Bloody  Mary.  Their  attitude  is  really  this  : 
that  the  man  must  stop  thinking,  if  he  is  to  go 
on  living.  Their  counsel  is  one  of  intellectual 
amputation.  If  thy  head  offend  thee,  cut  it 
off;  for  it  is  better,  not  merely  to  enter  the 
Kingdom  of  Heaven  as  a  child,  but  to  enter 



it  as  an  imbecile,  rather  than  with  your  whole 
intellect  to  be  cast  into  hell — or  into  Hanwell. 

Such  is  the  madman  of  experience  ;  he  is 
commonly  a  reasoner,  frequently  a  successful 
reasoner.  Doubtless  he  could  be  vanquished 
in  mere  reason,  and  the  case  against  him  put 
logically.  But  it  can  be  put  much  more  pre- 
cisely in  more  general  and  even  aesthetic  terms. 
He  is  in  the  clean  and  well-lit  prison  of  one 
idea:  he  is  sharpened  to  one  painful  point. 
He  is  without  healthy  hesitation  and  healthy 
complexity.  Now,  as  I  explain  in  the  introduc- 
tion, I  have  determined  in  these  early  chapters 
to  give  not  so  much  a  diagram  of  a  doctrine  as 
some  pictures  of  a  point  of  view.  And  I  have 
described  at  length  my  vision  of  the  maniac  for 
this  reason  :  that  just  as  I  am  affected  by  the 
maniac,  so  I  am  affected  by  most  modern 
thinkers.  That  unmistakable  mood  or  note 
that  I  hear  from  Hanwell,  I  hear  also  from  half 
the  chairs  of  science  and  seats  of  learning  to-day  ; 
and  most  of  the  mad  doctors  are  mad  doctors  in 
more  senses  than  one.  They  all  have  exactly 
that  combination  we  have  noted  :  the  combina- 
tion of  an  expansive  and  exhaustive  reason  with 
a  contracted  common  sense.  They  are  universal 
only  in  the  sense  that  they  take  one  thin  explan- 
ation and  carry  it  very  far.     But  a  pattern  can 



The  Maniac 

stretch  for  ever  and  still  be  a  small  pattern. 
They  see  a  chess-board  white  on  black,  and  if 
the  universe  is  paved  with  it,  it  is  still  white 
on  black.  Like  the  lunatic,  they  cannot  alter 
their  standpoint  ;  they  cannot  make  a  mental 
effort  and  suddenly  see  it  black  on  white. 

Take  first  the  more  obvious  case  of  mate- 
rialism. As  an  explanation  of  the  world, 
materialism  has  a  sort  of  insane  simplicity.  It 
has  just  the  quality  of  the  madman's  argument  ; 
we  have  at  once  the  sense  of  it  covering  every- 
thing and  the  sense  of  it  leaving  everything  out. 
Contemplate  some  able  and  sincere  materialist, 
as,  for  instance,  Mr.  McCabe,  and  you  will 
have  exactly  this  unique  sensation.  He  under- 
stands everything,  and  everything  does  not 
seem  worth  understanding.  His  cosmos  may 
be  complete  in  every  rivet  and  cog-wheel,  but 
still  his  cosmos  is  smaller  than  our  world. 
Somehow  his  scheme,  like  the  lucid  scheme  of 
the  madman,  seems  unconscious  of  the  alien 
energies  and  the  large  indifference  of  the  earth  ; 
A  is  not  thinking  of  the  real  things  of  the 
earth,  of  fighting  peoples  or  proud  mothers,  or 
first  love  or  fear  upon  the  sea.  The  earth  is  so 
very  large,  and  the  cosmos  is  so  very  small. 
The  cosmos  is  about  the  smallest  hole  that  a 
man  can  hide  his  head  in. 



It  must  be  understood  that  I  am  not  now 
discussing  the  relation  of  these  creeds  to  truth  ; 
but,  for  the  present,  solely  their  relation  to 
health.  Later  in  the  argument  I  hope  to  attack 
the  question  of  objective  verity  ;  here  I  speak 
only  of  a  phenomenon  of  psychology.  I  do 
not  for  the  present  attempt  to  prove  to  Haeckel 
that  materialism  is  untrue,  any  more  than  I 
attempted  to  prove  to  the  man  who  thought  he 
was  Christ  that  he  was  labouring  under  an  error. 
I  merely  remark  here  on  the  fact  that  both  cases 
have  the  same  kind  of  completeness  and  the 
same  kind  of  incompleteness.  You  can  explain 
a  man's  detention  at  Hanwell  by  an  indifferent 
public  by  saying  that  it  is  the  crucifixion  of  a 
god  of  whom  the  world  is  not  worthy.  The 
explanation  does  explain.  Similarly  you  may 
explain  the  order  in  the  universe  by  saying  that 
all  things,  even  the  souls  of  men,  are  leaves 
inevitably  unfolding  on  an  utterly  unconscious 
tree — the  blind  destiny  of  matter.  The  explan- 
ation does  explain,  though  not,  of  course,  so 
completely  as  the  madman's.  But  the  point 
here  is  that  the  normal  human  mind  not  only 
objects  to  both,  but  feels  to  both  the  same 
objection.  Its  approximate  statement  is  that 
if  the  man  in  Hanwell  is  the  real  God,  he  is 
not   much   of  a    god.     And,  similarly,   if   the 


The  Maniac 

cosmos  of  the  materialist  is  the  real  cosmos,  it 
is  not  much  of  a  cosmos.  The  thing  has 
shrunk.  The  deity  is  less  divine  than  many 
men  ;  and  (according  to  Haeckel)  the  whole  of 
life  is  something  much  more  grey,  narrow,  and 
trivial  than  many  separate  aspects  of  it.  The 
parts  seem  greater  than  the  whole. 

For  we  must  remember  that  the  materialist 
philosophy  (whether  true  or  not)  is  certainly 
much  more  limiting  than  any  religion.  In  one 
sense,  of  course,  all  intelligent  ideas  are  narrow. 
They  cannot  be  broader  than  themselves.  A 
Christian  is  only  restricted  in  the  same  sense 
that  an  atheist  is  restricted.  He  cannot  think 
Christianity  false  and  continue  to  be  a  Christian  ; 
and  the  atheist  cannot  think  atheism  false  and 
continue  to  be  an  atheist  But  as  it  happens, 
there  is  a  very  special  sense  in  which  materialism 
has  more  restrictions  than  spiritualism.  Mr. 
McCabe  thinks  me  a  slave  because  I  am  not 
allowed  to  believe  in  determinism.  I  think 
Mr.  McCabe  a  slave  because  he  is  not  allowed 
to  believe  in  fairies.  But  if  we  examine  the 
two  vetoes  we  shall  see  that  his  is  really  much 
more  of  a  pure  veto  than  mine.  The  Christian  is 
quite  free  to  believe  that  there  is  a  considerable 
amount  of  settled  order  and  inevitable  develop- 
ment in  the  universe.      But  the  materialist  is 



not  allowed  to  admit  into  his  spotless  machine 
the  slightest  speck  of  spiritualism  or  miracle. 
Poor  Mr.  McCabe  is  not  allowed  to  retain  even 
the  tiniest  imp,  though  it  might  be  hiding  in  a 
pimpernel.  The  Christian  admits  that  the 
universe  is  manifold  and  even  miscellaneous, 
just  as  a  sane  man  knows  that  he  is  complex. 
The  sane  man  knov/s  that  he  has  a  touch  of  the 
beast,  a  touch  of  the  devil,  a  touch  of  the  saint, 
a  touch  of  the  citizen.  Nay,  the  really  sane 
man  knows  that  he  has  a  touch  of  the  mad- 
man. But  the  materialist's  world  is  quite 
simple  and  solid,  just  as  the  madman  is  quite 
sure  he  is  sane.  The  materialist  is  sure  that 
history  has  been  simply  and  solely  a  chain  of 
causation,  just  as  the  interesting  person  before 
mentioned  is  quite  sure  that  he  is  simply  and 
solely  a  chicken.  Materialists  and  madmen 
never  have  doubts. 

Spiritual  doctrines  do  not  actually  limit  the 
mind  as  do  materialistic  denials.  Even  if  I 
believe  in  immortality  I  need  not  think  about 
it.  But  if  I  disbelieve  in  immortality  I  must 
not  think  about  it.  In  the  first  case  the  road 
is  open  and  I  can  go  as  far  as  I  like  ;  in  the 
second  the  road  is  shut.  But  the  case  is  even 
stronger,  and  the  parallel  with  madness  is  yet 
more  strange.      For  it  was  our  case  against  the 


The  Maniac 

exhaustive   and    logical    theory  of    the    lunatic 
that,  right  or  wrong,  it  gradually  destroyed  his 
humanity.     Now  it  is  the   charge  against  the 
main   deductions  of  the  materialist  that,  right 
or  wrong,  they  gradually  destroy  his  humanity  ; 
I   do  not  mean  only  kindness,  I   mean    hope, 
courage,    poetry,  initiative,  all  that   is  human. 
For  instance,  when  materialism  leads  men  to 
complete  fatalism  (as  it  generally  does),  it  is 
quite  idle  to  pretend  that  it  is  in  any  sense  a 
liberating  force.     It  is  absurd  to  say  that  you 
are    especially   advancing    freedom    when  you 
only   use   free  thought   to    destroy    free   will. 
The  determinists  come  to  bind,  not  to  loose. 
They  may  well  call  their  law  the  "  chain  "  of 
causation.     It    is    the   worst    chain    that   ever 
fettered  a  human   being.     You  may    use  the 
language  of  liberty,  if  you  like,  about  material- 
istic teaching,  but  it  is  obvious  that  this  is  just 
as  inapplicable  to  it  as  a  whole  as    the    same 
language  when  applied  to  a  man  locked  up  in  a 
mad-house.     You  may  say,  if  you  like,  that  the 
man  is  free  to  think  himself  a  poached  egg. 
But  it  is  surely  a  more  massive  and  important 
fact  that  if  he  is  a  poached  egg  he  is  not  free 
to  eat,  drink,  sleep,  walk,  or  smoke  a  cigarette. 
Similarly  you  may  say,  if  you  like,  that  the  bold 
determinist    speculator  is  free  to  disbelieve  in 



the  reality  of  the  will.  But  it  is  a  much  more 
massive  and  important  fact  that  he  is  not  free  to 
praise,  to  curse,  to  thank,  to  justify,  to  urge,  to 
punish,  to  resist  temptations,  to  incite  mobs,  to 
make  New  Year  resolutions,  to  pardon  sinners, 
to  rebuke  tyrants,  or  even  to  say  "  thank  you  " 
for  the  mustard. 

In  passing  from  this  subject  I  may  note 
that  there  is  a  queer  fallacy  to  the  effect  that 
materialistic  fatalism  is  in  some  way  favourable 
to  mercy,  to  the  abolition  of  cruel  punishments 
or  punishments  of  any  kind.  This  is  startlingly 
the  reverse  of  the  truth.  It  is  quite  tenable 
that  the  doctrine  of  necessity  makes  no 
difference  at  all  ;  that  it  leaves  the  flogger 
flogging  and  the  kind  friend  exhorting  as 
before.  But  obviously  if  it  stops  either  of 
them  it  stops  the  kind  exhortation.  That  the 
sins  are  inevitable  does  not  prevent  punish- 
ment ;  if  it  prevents  anything  it  prevents 
persuasion.  Determinism  is  quite  as  likely  to 
lead  to  cruelty  as  it  is  certain  to  lead  to 
cowardice.  Determinism  is  not  inconsistent 
with  the  cruel  treatment  of  criminals.  What  it 
is  (perhaps)  inconsistent  with  is  the  generous 
treatment  of  criminals  ;  with  any  appeal  to  their 
better  feelings  or  encouragement  in  their  moral 
struggle.     The  determinist  does  not  believe  in 


The  Maniac 

appealing  to  the  will,  but  he  does  believe  in 
changing  the  environment.  He  must  not  say  to 
the  sinner,  "  Go  and  sin  no  more,"  because  the 
sinner  cannot  help  it.  But  he  can  put  him  in 
boiling  oil ;  for  boiling  oil  is  an  environment. 
Considered  as  a  figure,  therefore,  the  materialist 
has  the  fantastic  outline  of  the  figure  of  the 
madman.  Both  take  up  a  position  at  once 
unanswerable  and  intolerable. 

Of  course  it  is  not  only  of  the  materialist 
that  all  this  is  true.  The  same  would  apply 
to  the  other  extreme  of  speculative  logic. 
There  is  a  sceptic  far  more  terrible  than  he  who 
believes  that  everything  began  in  matter.  It 
is  possible  to  meet  the  sceptic  who  believes  that 
everything  began  in  himself.  He  doubts  not  the 
existence  of  angels  or  devils,  but  the  existence 
of  men  and  cows.  For  him  his  own  friends  are 
a  mythology  made  up  by  himself.  He  created 
his  own  father  and  his  own  mother.  This 
horrible  fancy  has  in  it  something  decidedly 
attractive  to  the  somewhat  mystical  egoism  of 
our  day.  That  publisher  who  thought  that 
men  would  get  on  if  they  believed  in  them- 
selves, those  seekers  after  the  Superman  who 
are  always  looking  for  him  in  the  looking-glass, 
those  writers  who  talk  about  impressing  their 
personalities    instead   of  creating   life    for    the 



world,  all  these  people  have  really  only  an 
inch  between  them  and  this  awful  emptiness. 
Then  when  this  kindly  world  all  round  the 
man  has  been  blackened  out  like  a  lie  ;  when 
friends  fade  into  ghosts,  and  the  foundations 
of  the  world  fail ;  then  when  the  man,  believing 
in  nothing  and  in  no  man,  is  alone  in  his  own 
nightmare,  then  the  great  individualistic  motto 
shall  be  written  over  him  in  avenging  irony. 
The  stars  will  be  only  dots  in  the  blackness  of 
his  own  brain  ;  his  mother's  face  will  be  only  a 
sketch  from  his  own  insane  pencil  on  the  walls 
of  his  cell.  But  over  his  cell  shall  be  written, 
with  dreadful  truth,  u  He  believes  in  himself." 
All  that  concerns  us  here,  however,  is  to 
note  that  this  panegoistic  extreme  of  thought 
exhibits  the  same  paradox  as  the  other  extreme 
of  materialism.  It  is  equally  complete  in  theory 
and  equally  crippling  in  practice.  For  the  sake 
of  simplicity,  it  is  easier  to  state  the  notion  by 
saying  that  a  man  can  believe  that  he  is  always 
in  a  dream.  Now,  obviously  there  can  be  no 
positive  proof  given  to  him  that  he  is  not  in  a 
dream,  for  the  simple  reason  that  no  proof  can 
be  offered  that  might  not  be  offered  in  a  dream. 
But  if  the  man  began  to  burn  down  London 
and  say  that  his  housekeeper  would  soon  call 
him  to  breakfast,  we  should  take  him  and  put 


The  Maniac 

him  with  other  logicians  in  a  place  which  has 
often  been  alluded  to  in  the  course  of  this 
chapter.  The  man  who  cannot  believe  his 
senses,  and  the  man  who  cannot  believe  any- 
thing else,  are  both  insane,  but  their  insanity 
is  proved  not  by  any  error  in  their  argument, 
but  by  the  manifest  mistake  of  their  whole 
lives.  They  have  both  locked  themselves  up 
in  two  boxes,  painted  inside  with  the  sun  and 
stars ;  they  are  both  unable  to  get  out,  the  one 
into  the  health  and  happiness  of  heaven,  the 
other  even  into  the  health  and  happiness  of 
the  earth.  Their  position  is  quite  reasonable  ; 
nay,  in  a  sense  it  is  infinitely  reasonable,  just 
as  a  threepenny  bit  is  infinitely  circular.  But 
there  is  such  a  thing  as  a  mean  infinity,  a  base 
and  slavish  eternity.  It  is  amusing  to  notice 
that  many  of  the  moderns,  whether  sceptics  or 
mystics,  have  taken  as  their  sign  a  certain 
eastern  symbol,  which  is  the  very  symbol  of 
this  ultimate  nullity.  When  they  wish  to 
represent  eternity,  they  represent  it  by  a 
serpent  with  his  tail  in  his  mouth.  There 
is  a  startling  sarcasm  in  the  image  of  that 
very  unsatisfactory  meal.  The  eternity  of 
the  material  fatalists,  the  eternity  of  the 
eastern  pessimists,  the  eternity  of  the  super- 
cilious   theosophists    and    higher    scientists    of 



to-day  is,  indeed,  very  well  presented  by  a 
serpent  eating  his  tail,  a  degraded  animal  who 
destroys  even  himself. 

This  chapter  is  purely  practical  and  is  con- 
cerned with  what  actually  is  the  chief  mark 
and  element  of  insanity ;  we  may  say  in 
summary  that  it  is  reason  used  without  root, 
reason  in  the  void.  The  man  who  begins  to 
think  without  the  proper  first  principles  goes 
mad,  the  man  who  begins  to  think  at  the 
wrong  end.  And  for  the  rest  of  these  pages  we 
have  to  try  and  discover  what  is  the  right  end. 
But  we  may  ask  in  conclusion,  if  this  be  what 
drives  men  mad,  what  is  it  that  keeps  them 
sane  ?  By  the  end  of  this  book  I  hope  to  give 
a  definite,  some  will  think  a  far  too  definite, 
answer.  But  for  the  moment  it  is  possible  in 
the  same  solely  practical  manner  to  give  a 
general  answer  touching  what  in  actual  human 
history  keeps  men  sane.  Mysticism  keeps 
men  sane.  As  long  as  you  have  mystery  you 
have  health  ;  when  you  destroy  mystery  you 
create  morbidity.  The  ordinary  man  has 
always  been  sane  because  the  ordinary  man 
has  always  been  a  mystic.  He  has  permitted 
the  twilight.  He  has  always  had  one  foot  in 
earth  and  the  other  in  fairyland.  He  has 
always  left  himself  free  to  doubt  his  gods  ;  but 


The  Maniac 

(unlike  the  agnostic  of  to-day)  free  ?lso  to 
believe  in  them.  He  has  always  cared  more 
for  truth  than  for  consistency.  If  he  saw  two 
truths  that  seemed  to  contradict  each  other, 
he  would  take  the  two  truths  and  the  con- 
tradiction along  with  them.  His  spiritual 
sight  is  stereoscopic,  like  his  physical  sight  : 
he  sees  two  different  pictures  at  once  and  yet 
sees  all  the  better  for  that.  Thus  he  has 
always  believed  that  there  was  such  a  thing 
as  fate,  but  such  a  thing  as  free  will  also. 
Thus  he  believed  that  children  were  indeed 
the  kingdom  of  heaven,  but  nevertheless  ought 
to  be  obedient  to  the  kingdom  of  earth.  He 
admired  youth  because  it  was  young  and  age 
because  it  was  not.  It  is  exactly  this  balance 
of  apparent  contradictions  that  has  been  the 
whole  buoyancy  of  the  healthy  man.  The 
whole  secret  of  mysticism  is  this  :  that  man 
can  understand  everything  by  the  help  of  what 
he  does  not  understand.  The  morbid  logician 
seeks  to  make  everything  lucid,  and  succeeds 
in  making  everything  mysterious.  The  mystic 
allows  one  thing  to  be  mysterious,  and  every- 
thing else  becomes  lucid.  The  determinist 
makes  the  theory  of  causation  quite  clear,  and 
then  finds  that  he  cannot  say  u  if  you  please  " 
to    the    housemaid.      The    Christian    permits 



free  will  to  remain  a  sacred  mystery ;  but 
because  of  this  his  relations  with  the  house- 
maid become  of  a  sparkling  and  crystal 
clearness.  He  puts  the  seed  of  dogma  in  a 
central  darkness  ;  but  it  branches  forth  in  all 
directions  with  abounding  natural  health.  As 
we  have  taken  the  circle  as  the  symbol  of 
reason  and  madness,  we  may  very  well  take  the 
cross  as  the  symbol  at  once  of  mystery  and  of 
health.  Buddhism  is  centripetal,  but  Chris- 
tianity is  centrifugal  :  it  breaks  out.  For  the 
circle  is  perfect  and  infinite  in  its  nature  ;  but 
it  is  fixed  for  ever  in  its  size  ;  it  can  never  be 
larger  or  smaller.  But  the  cross,  though  it  has 
at  its  heart  a  collision  and  a  contradiction,  can 
extend  its  four  arms  for  ever  without  altering 
its  shape.  Because  it  has  a  paradox  in  its 
centre  it  can  grow  without  changing.  The 
circle  returns  upon  itself  and  is  bound.  The 
cross  opens  its  arms  to  the  four  winds  ;  it  is  a 
signpost  for  free  travellers. 

Symbols  alone  are  of  even  a  cloudy  value  in 
speaking  of  this  deep  matter  ;  and  another 
symbol  from  physical  nature  will  express 
sufficiently  well  the  real  place  of  mysticism 
before  mankind.  The  one  created  thing  which 
we  cannot  look  at  is  the  one  thing  in  the  light 
of  which  we  look  at  everything.     Like  the  sun 


The  Maniac 

at  noonday,  mysticism  explains  everything  else 
by  the  blaze  of  its  own  victorious  invisibility. 
Detached  inteilectualism  is  (in  the  exact  sense 
of  a  popular  phrase)  all  moonshine  ;  for  it  is 
light  without  heat,  and  it  is  secondary  light, 
reflected  from  a  dead  world.  But  the  Greeks 
were  right  when  they  made  Apollo  the  god 
both  of  imagination  and  of  sanity  ;  for  he  was 
both  the  patron  of  poetry  and  the  patron  of 
healing.  Of  necessary  dogmas  and  a  special 
creed  1  shall  speak  later.  But  that  transcen- 
dentalism by  which  all  men  live  has  primarily 
much  the  position  of  the  sun  in  the  sky.  We 
are  conscious  of  it  as  of  a  kind  of  splendid 
confusion  ;  it  is  something  both  shining  and 
shapeless,  at  once  a  blaze  and  a  blur.  But  the 
circle  of  the  moon  is  as  clear  and  unmistakable, 
as  recurrent  and  inevitable,  as  the  circle  of 
Euclid  on  a  blackboard.  For  the  moon  is 
utterly  reasonable  ;  and  the  moon  is  the 
mother  of  lunatics  and  has  given  to  them  all 
her  name. 


Chapter  III— Tlie  Suicide  of  Thought 

THE  phrases  of  the  street  are  not  only 
forcible  but  subtle  :  for  a  figure  of 
speech  can  often  get  into  a  crack 
too  small  for  a  definition.  Phrases 
like  "  put  out "  or  "  off  colour "  might  have 
been  coined  by  Mr.  Henry  James  in  an  agony 
of  verbal  precision.  And  there  is  no  more 
subtle  truth  than  that  of  the  everyday  phrase 
about  a  man  having  "his  heart  in  the  right 
place."  It  involves  the  idea  of  normal  propor- 
tion ;  not  only  does  a  certain  function  exist, 
but  it  is  rightly  related  to  other  functions. 
Indeed,  the  negation  of  this  phrase  would 
describe  with  peculiar  accuracy  the  somewhat 
morbid  mercy  and  perverse  tenderness  of  the 
most  representative  moderns.  If,  for  instance,  I 
had  to  describe  with  fairness  the  character  of  Mr. 
Bernard  Shaw,  I  could  not  express  myself  more 
exactly  than  by  saying  that  he  has  a  heroically 
large  and  generous  heart ;  but  not  a  heart  in 
the  right  place.  And  this  is  so  of  the  typical 
society  of  our  time. 

The  modern  world  is  not  evil ;  in  some  ways 
the  modern  world  is  far  too  good.  It  is  full 
of  wild  and  wasted  virtues.     When  a  religious 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

scheme  is  shattered  (as  Christianity  was  shat- 
tered at  the  Reformation),  it  is  not  merely  the 
vices  that  are  let  loose.  The  vices  are,  indeed, 
let  loose,  and  they  wander  and  do  damage. 
But  the  virtues  are  let  loose  also  ;  and  the 
virtues  wander  more  wildly,  and  the  virtues 
do  more  terrible  damage.  The  modern  world  is 
full  of  the  old  Christian  virtues  gone  mad.  The 
virtues  have  gone  mad  because  they  have  been 
isolated  from  each  other  and  are  wandering 
alone.  Thus  some  scientists  care  for  truth  ; 
and  their  truth  is  pitiless.  Thus  some  humani- 
tarians only  care  for  pity  ;  and  their  pity  (I  am 
sorry  to  say)  is  often  untruthful.  For  example, 
Mr.  Blatchford  attacks  Christianity  because  he 
is  mad  on  one  Christian  virtue  :  the  merely 
mystical  and  almost  irrational  virtue  ot  charity. 
He  has  a  strange  idea  that  he  will  make  it  easier 
to  forgive  sins  by  saying  that  there  are  no  sins 
to  forgive.  Mr.  Blatchford  is  not  only  an  early 
Christian,  he  is  the  only  early  Christian  who 
ought  really  to  have  been  eaten  by  lions.  For 
in  his  case  the  pagan  accusation  is  really  true : 
his  mercy  would  mean  mere  anarchy.  He  really 
is  the  enemy  of  the  human  race — because  he  is 
so  human.  As  the  other  extreme,  we  may  take 
the  acrid  realist,  who  has  deliberately  killed  in 
himself  all  human  pleasure  in  happy  tales  or  in 



the  healing  of  the  heart.  Torquemada  tortured 
people  physically  for  the  sake  of  moral  truth. 
Zola  tortured  people  morally  for  the  sake  of 
physical  truth.  But  in  Torquemada's  time 
there  was  at  least  a  system  that  could  to  some 
extent  make  righteousness  and  peace  kiss  each 
other.  Now  they  do  not  even  bow.  But  a 
much  stronger  case  than  these  two  of  truth  and 
pity  can  be  found  in  the  remarkable  case  of 
the  dislocation  of  humility. 

It  is  only  with  one  aspect  of  humility  that  we 
are  here  concerned.  Humility  was  largely  meant 
as  a  restraint  upon  the  arrogance  and  infinity  of 
the  appetite  of  man.  He  was  always  out- 
stripping his  mercies  with  his  own  newly 
invented  needs.  His  very  power  of  enjoyment 
destroyed  half  his  joys.  By  asking  for  pleasure, 
he  lost  the  chief  pleasure  ;  for  the  chief  pleasure 
is  surprise.  Hence  it  became  evident  that  if  a 
man  would  make  his  world  large,  he  must  be 
always  making  himself  small.  Even  the  haughty 
visions,  the  tall  cities,  and  the  toppling  pinnacles 
are  the  creations  of  humility.  Giants  that  tread 
down  forests  like  grass  are  the  creations  of 
humility.  Towers  that  vanish  upwards  above 
the  loneliest  star  are  the  creations  of  humility. 
For  towers  are  not  tall  unless  we  look  up  at 
them  ;  and  giants  are   not  giants  unless  they 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

are  larger  than  we.  All  this  gigantesquc  imagi- 
nation, which  is,  perhaps,  the  mightiest  of  the 
pleasures  of  man,  is  at  bottom  entirely  humble. 
It  is  impossible  without  humility  to  enjoy  any- 
thing— even  pride. 

But  what  we  suffer  from  to-day  is  humility 
in  the  wrong  place.  Modesty  has  moved  from 
the  organ  of  ambition.  Modesty  has  settled  upon 
the  organ  of  conviction  ;  where  it  was  never 
meant  to  be.  A  man  was  meant  to  be  doubtful 
about  himself,  but  undoubting  about  the  truth ; 
this  has  been  exactly  reversed.  Nowadays  the 
part  of  a  man  that  a  man  does  assert  is  exactly  the 
part  he  ought  not  to  assert — himself.  The  part 
he  doubts  is  exactly  the  part  he  ought  not  to 
doubt — the  Divine  Reason.  Huxley  preached 
a  humility  content  to  learn  from  Nature.  But 
the  new  sceptic  is  so  humble  that  he  doubts  if 
he  can  even  learn.  Thus  we  should  be  wrong 
if  we  had  said  hastily  that  there  is  no  humility 
typical  of  our  time.  The  truth  is  that  there  is 
a  real  humility  typical  of  our  time  ;  but  it  so 
happens  that  it  is  practically  a  more  poisonous 
humility  than  the  wildest  prostrations  of  the 
ascetic.  The  old  humility  was  a  spur  that 
prevented  a  man  from  stopping  ;  not  a  nail  in 
his  boot  that  prevented  him  from  going  on. 
For  the    old   humilitv  made  a    man    doubtful 



about  his  efforts,  which  might  make  him  work 
harder.  But  the  new  humility  makes  a  man 
doubtful  about  his  aims,  which  will  make  him 
stop  working  altogether. 

At  any  street  corner  we  may  meet  a  man 
who  utters  the  frantic  and  blasphemous  state- 
ment that  he  may  be  wrong.  Every  day  one 
comes  across  somebody  who  says  that  of  course 
his  view  may  not  be  the  right  one.  Of  course 
his  view  must  be  the  right  one,  or  it  is  not  his 
view.  We  are  on  the  road  to  producing  a  race 
of  men  too  mentally  modest  to  believe  in  the 
multiplication  table.  We  are  in  danger  of 
seeing  philosophers  who  doubt  the  law  of 
gravity  as  being  a  mere  fancy  of  their  own. 
Scoffers  of  old  time  were  too  proud  to  be  con- 
vinced ;  but  these  are  too  humble  to  be  con- 
vinced. The  meek  do  inherit  the  earth  ;  but 
the  modern  sceptics  are  too  meek  even  to  claim 
their  inheritance.  It  is  exactly  this  intellectual 
helplessness  which  is  our  second  problem* 

The  last  chapter  has  been  concerned  only 
with  a  fact  of  observation  :  that  what  peril  of 
morbidity  there  is  for  man  comes  rather  from 
his  reason  than  his  imagination.  It  was  not 
meant  to  attack  the  authority  of  reason  ;  rather 
it  is  the  ultimate  purpose  to  defend  it.  For 
it   needs  defence.     The  whole  modern  world 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

is  at  war  with   reason  ;  and   the  tower  already 

The  sages,  it  is  often  said,  can  see  no  answer 
to  the  riddle  of  religion.  But  the  trouble  with 
our  sages  is  not  that  they  cannot  see  the 
answer  ;  it  is  that  they  cannot  even  see  the 
riddle.  They  are  like  children  so  stupid  as 
to  notice  nothing  paradoxical  in  the  playful 
assertion  that  a  door  is  not  a  door.  The 
modern  latitudinarians  speak,  for  instance,  about 
authority  in  religion  not  only  as  if  there  were 
no  reason  in  it,  but  as  if  there  had  never  been 
any  reason  for  it.  Apart  from  seeing  its 
philosophical  basis,  they  cannot  even  see  its 
historical  cause.  Religious  authority  has  often, 
doubtless,  been  oppressive  or  unreasonable ; 
just  as  every  legal  system  (and  especially  our 
present  one)  has  been  callous  and  full  of  a  cruel 
apathy.  It  is  rational  to  attack  the  police  ;  nay, 
it  is  glorious.  But  the  modern  critics  of 
religious  authority  are  like  men  who  should 
attack  the  police  without  ever  having  heard  of 
burglars.  For  there  is  a  great  and  possible 
peril  to  the  human  mind  :  a  peril  as  practical 
as  burglary.  Against  it  religious  authority  was 
reared,  rightly  or  wrongly,  as  a  barrier.  And 
against  it  something  certainly  must  be  reared  as. 
a  barrier,  if  our  race  is  to  avoid  ruin. 



That  peril  is  that  the  human  intellect  is  free 
to  destroy  itself.  Just  as  one  generation  could 
prevent  the  very  existence  of  the  next  generation, 
by  all  entering  a  monastery  or  jumping  into  the 
sea,  so  one  set  of  thinkers  can  in  some  degree 
prevent  further  thinking  by  teaching  the  next 
generation  that  there  is  no  validity  in  any 
human  thought.  It  is  idle  to  talk  always  of 
the  alternative  of  reason  and  faith.  Reason  is 
itself  a  matter  of  faith.  It  is  an  act  of  faith  to 
assert  that  our  thoughts  have  any  relation  to 
reality  at  all.  If  you  are  merely  a  sceptic, 
you  must  sooner  or  later  ask  yourself  the 
question,  "  Why  should  anything  go  right  ; 
even  observation  and  deduction  ?  Why  should 
not  good  logic  be  as  misleading  as  bad  logic  ? 
They  are  both  movements  in  the  brain  of  a 
bewildered  ape  ? "  The  young  sceptic  says,  "  I 
have  a  right  to  think  for  myself.0  But  the  old 
sceptic,  the  complete  sceptic,  says,  "  I  have  no 
right  to  think  for  myself.  I  have  no  right  to 
think  at  alL" 

There  is  a  thought  that  stops  thought. 
That  is  the  only  thought  that  ought  to  be 
stopped.  That  is  the  ultimate  evil  against 
which  all  religious  authority  was  aimed.  It 
only  appears  at  the  end  of  decadent  ages  like 
our  own  :  and  already  Mr.   H.  G.  Wells  has 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

raised  its  ruinous  banner  ;  he  has  written  a 
delicate  piece  of  scepticism  called  "  Doubts  of 
the  Instrument."  In  this  he  questions  the 
brain  itself,  and  endeavours  to  remove  all  reality 
from  all  his  own  assertions,  past,  present,  and 
to  come.  But  it  was  against  this  remote  ruin 
that  all  the  military  systems  in  religion  were 
originally  ranked  and  ruled.  The  creeds  and 
the  crusades,  the  hierarchies  and  the  horrible 
persecutions  were  not  organized,  as  is  ignorantly 
said,  for  the  suppression  of  reason.  They  were 
organized  for  the  difficult  defence  of  reason. 
Man,  by  a  blind  instinct,  knew  that  if  once 
things  were  wildly  questioned,  reason  could  be 
questioned  first.  The  authority  of  priests  to 
absolve,  the  authority  of  popes  to  define  the 
authority,  even  of  inquisitors  to  terrify :  these 
were  all  only  dark  defences  erected  round  one 
central  authority,  more  undemonstrable,  more 
supernatural  than  all — the  authority  of  a  man 
to  think.  We  know  now  that  this  is  so  ;  we 
have  no  excuse  for  not  knowing  it.  For  we  can 
hear  scepticism  crashing  through  the  old  ring 
of  authorities,  and  at  the  same  moment  we  can 
see  reason  swaying  upon  her  throne.  In  so  far 
as  religion  is  gone,  reason  is  going.  For  they 
are  both  of  the  same  primary  and  authoritative 
kind.     They  are  both  methods  of  proof  which 

57  c2 


cannot  themselves  be  proved.  And  in  the  act 
of  destroying  the  idea  of  Divine  authority  we 
have  largely  destroyed  the  idea  of  that  human 
authority  by  which  we  do  a  long-division  sum. 
With  a  long  and  sustained  tug  we  have 
attempted  to  pull  the  mitre  off  pontifical  man  ; 
and  his  head  has  come  off  with  it. 

Lest  this  should  be  called  loose  assertion,  it  is 
perhaps  desirable,  though  dull,  to  run  rapidly 
through  the  chief  modern  fashions  of  thought 
which  have  this  effect  of  stopping  thought  itself. 
Materialism  and  the  view  of  everything  as  a 
personal  illusion  have  some  such  effect ;  for  if 
the  mind  is  mechanical,  thought  cannot  be  very 
exciting,  and  if  the  cosmos  is  unreal,  there  is 
nothing  to  think  about.  But  in  these  cases  the 
effect  is  indirect  and  doubtful.  In  some  cases  it 
is  direct  and  clear  ;  notably  in  the  case  of  what 
is  generally  called  evolution. 

Evolution  is  a  good  example  of  that  modern 
intelligence  which,  if  it  destroys  anything, 
destroys  itself.  Evolution  is  either  an  innocent 
scientific  description  of  how  certain  earthly 
things  came  about ;  or,  if  it  is  anything  more 
than  this,  it  is  an  attack  upon  thought  itself. 
If  evolution  destroys  anything,  it  does  not 
destroy  religion  but  rationalism.  If  evolution 
simply  means  that  a  positive  thing  called  an  ape 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

turned  very  slowly  into  a  positive  thing  called 
a  man,  then  it  is  stingless  for  the  most 
orthodox  ;  for  a  personal  God  might  just  as 
well  do  things  slowly  as  quickly,  especially  if, 
like  the  Christian  God,  he  were  outside  time. 
But  if  it  means  anything  more,  it  means  that 
there  is  no  such  thing  as  an  ape  to  change,  and 
no  such  thing  as  a  man  for  him  to  change  into. 
It  means  that  there  is  no  such  thing  as  a  thing. 
At  best,  there  is  only  one  thing,  and  that  is  a 
flux  of  everything  and  anything.  This  is  an 
attack  not  upon  the  faith,  but  upon  the  mind  ; 
you  cannot  think  if  there  are  no  things  to 
think  about.  You  cannot  think  if  you  are  not 
separate  from  the  subject  of  thought.  Descartes 
said,  "  I  think  ;  therefore  I  am."  The  philo- 
sophic evolutionist  reverses  and  negatives  the 
epigram.  He  says,  "  I  am  not  ;  therefore  I 
cannot  think." 

Then  there  is  the  opposite  attack  on  thought  : 
that  urged  by  Mr.  H.  G.  Wells  when  he  insists 
that  every  separate  thing  is  "  unique,"  and  there 
are  no  categories  at  all.  This  also  is  merely  de- 
structive. Thinking  means  connecting  things, 
and  stops  if  they  cannot  be  connected.  It  need 
hardly  be  said  that  this  scepticism  forbidding 
thought  necessarily  forbids  speech  ;  a  man  can- 
not open  his  mouth  without  contradicting  it 



Thus  when  Mr.  Wells  says  (as  he  did  some- 
where), "  All  chairs  are  quite  different,"  he  utters 
not  merely  a  misstatement,  but  a  contradiction 
in  terms.  If  all  chairs  were  quite  different,  you 
could  not  call  them  "all  chairs." 

Akin  to  these  is  the  false  theory  of  progress, 
which  maintains  that  we  alter  the  test  instead  of 
trying  to  pass  the  test.  We  often  hear  it  said, 
for  instance,  "  What  is  right  in  one  age  is  wrong 
in  another."  This  is  quite  reasonable,  if  it 
means  that  there  is  a  fixed  aim,  and  that  certain 
methods  attain  at  certain  times  and  not  at  other 
times.  If  women,  say,  desire  to  be  elegant,  it 
may  be  that  they  are  improved  at  one  time  by 
growing  fatter  and  at  another  time  by  growing 
thinner.  But  you  cannot  say  that  they  are 
improved  by  ceasing  to  wish  to  be  elegant  and 
beginning  to  wish  to  be  oblong.  If  the  standard 
changes,  how  can  there  be  improvement,  which 
implies  a  standard  ?  Nietzsche  started  a  non- 
sensical idea  that  men  had  once  sought  as  good 
what  we  now  call  evil ;  if  it  were  so,  we  could 
not  talk  of  surpassing  or  even  falling  short  of 
them.  How  can  you  overtake  Jones  if  you  walk 
in  the  other  direction  ?  You  cannot  discuss 
whether  one  people  has  succeeded  more  in 
being  miserable  than  another  succeeded  in 
being    happy.      It    would    be   like    discussing 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

whether  Milton  was  more  puritanical  than  a 
pig  is  fat. 

It  is  true  that  a  man  (a  silly  man)  might 
make  change  itself  his  object  or  ideal.  But  as 
an  ideal,  change  itself  becomes  unchangeable. 
If  the  change-worshipper  wishes  to  estimate  his 
own  progress,  he  must  be  sternly  loyal  to  the 
ideal  of  change  ;  he  must  not  begin  to  flirt 
gaily  with  the  ideal  of  monotony.  Progress 
itself  cannot  progress.  It  is  worth  remark,  in 
passing,  that  when  Tennyson,  in  a  wild  and 
rather  weak  manner,  welcomed  the  idea  of 
infinite  alteration  in  society,  he  instinctively  took 
a  metaphor  which  suggests  an  imprisoned 
tedium.     He  wrote — 

*  Let  the  great  world  spin  for  ever  down  the  ringing  grooves  of 

He  thought  of  change  itself  as  an  unchangeable 
groove  ;  and  so  it  is.  Change  is  about  the 
narrowest  and  hardest  groove  that  a  man  can 
get  into. 

The  main  point  here,  however,  is  that  this 
idea  of  a  fundamental  alteration  in  the  standard 
is  one  of  the  things  that  make  thought  about  the 
past  or  future  simply  impossible.  The  theory 
of  a  complete  change  of  standards  in  human 
history    does    not    merely    deprive   us    of  the 



pleasure  of  honouring  our  fathers  ;  it  deprives 
us  even  of  the  more  modern  and  aristocratic 
pleasure  of  despising  them. 

This  bald  summary  of  the  thought-destroying 
forces  of  our  time  would  not  be  complete  with- 
out some  reference  to  pragmatism ;  for  though 
I  have  here  used  and  should  everywhere  defend 
the  pragmatist  method  as  a  preliminary  guide  to 
truth,  there  is  an  extreme  application  of  it  which 
involves  the  absence  of  all  truth  whatever.  My 
meaning  can  be  put  shortly  thus.  I  agree  with 
the  pragmatists  that  apparent  objective  truth  is 
not  the  whole  matter  ;  that  there  is  an  authorita- 
tive need  to  believe  the  things  that  are  necessary 
to  the  human  mind.  But  I  say  that  one  of  those 
necessities  precisely  is  a  belief  in  objective  truth. 
The  pragmatist  tells  a  man  to  think  what  he 
must  think  and  never  mind  the  Absolute.  But 
precisely  one  of  the  things  that  he  must  think 
is  the  Absolute.  This  philosophy,  indeed,  is 
a  kind  of  verbal  paradox.  Pragmatism  is  a 
matter  of  human  needs  ;  and  one  of  the  first  of 
human  needs  is  to  be  something  more  than  a 
pragmatist.  Extreme  pragmatism  is  just  as 
inhuman  as  the  determinism  it  so  powerfully 
attacks.  The  determinist  (who,  to  do  him 
justice,  does  not  pretend  to  be  a  human  being) 
makes  nonsense  of  the  human  sense  of  actual 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

choice.  The  pragmatist,  who  professes  to  be 
specially  human,  makes  nonsense  of  the  human 
sense  of  actual  fact. 

To  sum  up  our  contention  so  far,  wc  may 
say  that  the  most  characteristic  current  philo- 
sophies have  not  only  a  touch  of  mania,  but  a 
touch  of  suicidal  mania.  The  mere  questioner 
has  knocked  his  head  against  the  limits  of 
human  thought  ;  and  cracked  it.  This  is  what 
makes  so  futile  the  warnings  of  the  orthodox 
and  the  boasts  of  the  advanced  about  the 
dangerous  boyhood  of  free  thought.  What  we 
are  looking  at  is  not  the  boyhood  of  free 
thought ;  it  is  the  old  age  and  ultimate  dissolu- 
tion of  free  thought.  It  is  vain  for  bishops 
and  pious  bigwigs  to  discuss  what  dreadful 
things  will  happen  if  wild  scepticism  runs  its 
course.  It  has  run  its  course.  It  is  vain  for 
eloquent  atheists  to  talk  of  the  great  truths 
that  will  be  revealed  if  once  we  see  free  thought 
begin.  We  have  seen  it  end.  It  has  no  more 
questions  to  ask  ;  it  has  questioned  itself. 
You  cannot  call  up  any  wilder  vision  than  a 
city  in  which  men  ask  themselves  if  they  have 
any  selves.  You  cannot  fancy  a  more  sceptical 
world  than  that  in  which  men  doubt  if  there  is 
a  world.  It  might  certainly  have  reached  its 
bankruptcy  more  quickly  and  cleanly  if  it  had 



not  been  feebly  hampered  by  the  application  of 
indefensible  laws  of  blasphemy  or  by  the  absurd 
pretence  that  modern  England  is  Christian. 
But  it  would  have  reached  the  bankruptcy 
anyhow.  Militant  atheists  are  still  unjustly 
persecuted  ;  but  rather  because  they  are  an  old 
minority  than  because  they  are  a  new  one. 
Free  thought  has  exhausted  its  own  freedom. 
It  is  weary  of  its  own  success.  If  any  eager 
freethinker  now  hails  philosophic  freedom  as 
the  dawn,  he  is  only  like  the  man  in  Mark 
Twain  who  came  out  wrapped  in  blankets  to 
see  the  sun  rise  and  was  just  in  time  to  see  it 
set.  If  any  frightened  curate  still  says  that  it 
will  be  awful  if  the  darkness  of  free  thought 
should  spread,  we  can  only  answer  him  in  the 
high  and  powerful  words  of  Mr.  Belloc,  "  Do 
not,  I  beseech  you,  be  troubled  about  the 
increase  of  forces  already  in  dissolution.  You 
have  mistaken  the  hour  of  the  night :  it  is 
already  morning."  We  have  no  more  questions 
left  to  ask.  We  have  looked  for  questions  in 
the  darkest  corners  and  on  the  wildest  peaks. 
We  have  found  all  the  questions  that  can  be 
found.  It  is  time  we  gave  up  looking  for 
questions  and  began  looking  for  answers. 

But  one  more  word  must  be  added.     At  the 
beginning  of  this  preliminary  negative   sketch 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

I  said  that  our  mental  ruin  has  been  wrought 
by  wild  reason,  not  by  wild  imagination.  A 
man  does  not  go  mad  because  he  makes  a 
statue  a  mile  high,  but  he  may  go  mad  by 
thinking  it  out  in  square  inches.  Now,  one 
school  of  thinkers  has  seen  this  and  jumped  at 
it  as  a  way  of  renewing  the  pagan  health  of  the 
world.  They  see  that  reason  destroys  ;  but 
Will,  they  say,  creates.  The  ultimate  authority, 
they  say,  is  in  will,  not  in  reason.  The 
supreme  point  is  not  why  a  man  demands  a 
thing,  but  the  fact  that  he  does  demand  it.  I 
have  no  space  to  trace  or  expound  this  philo- 
sophy of  Will.  It  came,  I  suppose,  through 
Nietzsche,  who  preached  something  that  is 
called  egoism.  That,  indeed,  was  simple- 
minded  enough  ;  for  Nietzsche  denied  egoism 
simply  by  preaching  it.  To  preach  anything 
is  to  give  it  away.  First,  the  egoist  calls  life 
a  war  without  mercy,  and  then  he  takes  the 
greatest  possible  trouble  to  drill  his  enemies 
in  war.  To  preach  egoism  is  to  practise 
altruism.  But  however  it  began,  the  view  is 
common  enough  in  current  literature.  The 
main  defence  of  these  thinkers  is  that  they  are 
not  thinkers  ;  they  are  makers.  They  say  that 
choice  is  itself  the  divine  thing.  Thus  Mr. 
Bernard   Shaw  has  attacked  the  old   idea  that 



men's  acts  are  to  be  judged  by  the  standard  of 
the  desire  of  happiness.  He  says  that  a  man 
does  not  act  for  his  happiness,  but  from  his 
will.  He  does  not  say,  "Jam  will  make  me 
happy,"  but  "  I  want  jam."  And  in  all  this 
others  follow  him  with  yet  greater  enthusiasm. 
Mr.  John  Davidson,  a  remarkable  poet,  is  so 
passionately  excited  about  it  that  he  is  obliged 
to  write  prose.  He  publishes  a  short  play  with 
several  long  prefaces.  This  is  natural  enough 
in  Mr.  Shaw,  for  all  his  plays  are  prefaces  : 
Mr.  Shaw  is  (I  suspect)  the  only  man  on 
earth  who  has  never  written  any  poetry.  But 
that  Mr.  Davidson  (who  can  write  excellent 
poetry)  should  write  instead  laborious  meta- 
physics in  defence  of  this  doctrine  of  will, 
does  show  that  the  doctrine  of  will  has  taken 
hold  of  men.  Even  Mr.  H.  G.  Wells  has  half 
spoken  in  its  language  ;  saying  that  one  should 
test  acts  not  like  a  thinker,  but  like  an  artist, 
saying,  "  I  feel  this  curve  is  right,"  or  "  that 
line  shall  go  thus."  They  are  all  excited  ;  and 
well  they  may  be.  For  by  this  doctrine  of 
the  divine  authority  of  will,  they  think  they 
can  break  out  of  the  doomed  fortress  of 
rationalism.     They  think  they  can  escape. 

But  they  cannot   escape.      This  pure  praise 
of  volition  ends  in  the  same  break  up  and  blank 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

as  the  mere  pursuit  of  logic.  Exactly  as  com- 
plete free  thought  involves  the  doubting  of 
thought  itself,  so  the  acceptation  of  mere 
"willing"  really  paralyzes  the  will.  Mr. 
Bernard  Shaw  has  not  perceived  the  real  differ- 
ence between  the  old  utilitarian  test  of  pleasure 
(clumsy,  of  course,  and  easily  misstated)  and 
that  which  he  propounds.  The  real  difference 
between  the  test  of  happiness  and  the  test  of 
will  is  simply  that  the  test  of  happiness  is  a 
test  and  the  other  isn't.  You  can  discuss 
whether  a  man's  act  in  jumping  over  a  cliff 
was  directed  towards  happiness  ;  you  cannot 
discuss  whether  it  was  derived  from  will.  Of 
course  it  was.  You  can  praise  an  action  by 
saying  that  it  is  calculated  to  bring  pleasure 
or  pain  to  discover  truth  or  to  save  the  soul. 
But  you  cannot  praise  an  action  because  it  shows 
will ;  for  to  say  that  is  merely  to  say  that  it 
is  an  action.  By  this  praise  of  will  you  cannot 
really  choose  one  course  as  better  than  another. 
And  yet  choosing  one  course  as  better  than 
another  is  the  very  definition  of  the  will  you 
are  praising. 

The  worship  of  will  is  the  negation  of  will. 
To  admire  mere  choice  is  to  refuse  to  choose. 
If  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw  comes  up  to  me  and 
says,  a  Will  something,"  that  is  tantamount   to 



saying,  "  I  do  not  mind  what  you  will,"  and 
that  is  tantamount  to  saying,  "  I  have  no  will 
in  the  matter."  You  cannot  admire  will  in 
general,  because  the  essence  of  will  is  that  it  is 
particular.  A  brilliant  anarchist  like  Mr.  John 
Davidson  feels  an  irritation  against  ordinary 
morality,  and  therefore  he  invokes  will — will  to 
anything.  He  only  wants  humanity  to  want 
something.  But  humanity  does  want  some- 
thing. It  wants  ordinary  morality.  He  rebels 
against  the  law  and  tells  us  to  will  something 
or  anything.  But  we  have  willed  something. 
We  have  willed  the  law  against  which  he 

All  the  will-worshippers,  from  Nietzsche  to 
Mr.  Davidson,  are  really  quite  empty  of 
volition.  They  cannot  will,  they  can  hardly 
wish.  And  if  any  one  wants  a  proof  of  this,  it 
can  be  found  quite  easily.  It  can  be  found  in 
this  fact :  that  they  always  talk  of  will  as  some- 
thing that  expands  and  breaks  out.  But  it  is 
quite  the  opposite.  Every  act  of  will  is  an  act 
of  self-limitation.  To  desire  action  is  to  desire 
limitation.  In  that  sense  every  act  is  an  act 
of  self-sacrifice.  When  you  choose  anything, 
you  reject  everything  else.  That  objection, 
which  men  of  this  school  used  to  make  to  the 
act  of  marriage,  is  really  an  objection  to  every 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

act.  Every  act  is  an  irrevocable  selection  and 
exclusion.  Just  as  when  you  marry  one  woman 
you  give  up  all  the  others,  so  when  you  take 
one  course  of  action  you  give  up  all  the  other 
courses.  If  you  become  King  of  England,  you 
give  up  the  post  of  Beadle  in  Brompton.  If 
you  go  to  Rome,  you  sacrifice  a  rich  suggestive 
life  in  Wimbledon.  It  is  the  existence  of  this 
negative  or  limiting  side  of  will  that  makes 
most  of  the  talk  of  the  anarchic  will- worshippers 
little  better  than  nonsense.  For  instance,  Mr. 
John  Davidson  tells  us  to  have  nothing  to  do 
with  "Thou  shalt  not "  ;  but  it  is  surely 
obvious  that  "  Thou  shalt  not "  is  only  one  of 
the  necessary  corollaries  of  "  I  will."  "  I  will  go 
to  the  Lord  Mayor's  Show,  and  thou  shalt  not 
stop  me."  Anarchism  adjures  us  to  be  bold 
creative  artists,  and  care  for  no  laws  or  limits. 
But  it  is  impossible  to  be  an  artist  and  not 
care  for  laws  and  limits.  Art  is  limitation  ;  the 
essence  of  every  picture  is  the  frame.  If  you 
draw  a  giraffe,  you  must  draw  him  with  a  long 
neck.  If,  in  your  bold  creative  way,  you  hold 
yourself  free  to  draw  a  giraffe  with  a  short  neck, 
you  will  really  find  that  you  are  not  free  to 
draw  a  giraffe.  The  moment  you  step  into  the 
world  of  facts,  you  step  into  a  world  of  limits. 
You  can  free  things  from  alien  or  accidental 



laws,  but  not  from  the  laws  of  their  own  nature. 
You  may,  if  you  like,  free  a  tiger  from  his 
bars  ;  but  do  not  free  him  from  his  stripes. 
Do  not  free  a  camel  of  the  burden  of  his  hump  : 
you  may  be  freeing  him  from  being  a  camel. 
Do  not  go  about  as  a  demagogue,  encouraging 
triangles  to  break  out  of  the  prison  of  their 
three  sides.  If  a  triangle  breaks  out  of  its 
three  sides,  its  life  comes  to  a  lamentable  end. 
Somebody  wrote  a  work  called  "  The  Loves  of 
the  Triangles  "  ;  I  never  read  it,  but  I  am  sure 
that  if  triangles  ever  were  loved,  they  were 
loved  for  being  triangular.  This  is  certainly 
the  case  with  all  artistic  creation,  which  is  in 
some  ways  the  most  decisive  example  of  pure 
will.  The  artist  loves  his  limitations  :  they 
constitute  the  thing  he  is  doing.  The  painter 
is  glad  that  the  canvas  is  flat.  The  sculptor  is 
glad  that  the  clay  is  colourless. 

In  case  the  point  is  not  clear,  an  historic  example 
may  illustrate  it.  The  French  Revolution  was 
really  an  heroic  and  decisive  thing,  because  the 
Jacobins  willed  something  definite  and  limited. 
They  desired  the  freedoms  of  democracy,  but 
also  all  the  vetoes  of  democracy.  They  wished 
to  have  votes  and  not  to  have  titles.  Republi- 
canism had  an  ascetic  side  in  Franklin  or 
Robespierre    as  well  as  an   expansive  side   in 


Tlie  Suicide  of  Thought 

Dunton  or  Wilkes.  Therefore  they  have 
created  something  with  a  solid  substance  and 
shape,  the  square  social  equality  and  peasant 
wealth  of  France.  But  since  then  the  revolu- 
tionary or  speculative  mind  of  Europe  has  been 
weakened  by  shrinking  from  any  proposal 
because  of  the  limits  of  that  proposal.  Liberal- 
ism has  been  degraded  into  liberality.  Men 
have  tried  to  turn  "  revolutionise "  from  a 
transitive  to  an  intransitive  verb.  The 
Jacobin  could  tell  you  not  only  the  system 
he  would  rebel  against,  but  (what  was  more 
important)  the  system  he  would  not  rebel 
against,  the  system  he  would  trust.  But  the  new 
rebel  is  a  sceptic,  and  will  not  entirely  trust 
anything.  He  has  no  loyalty  ;  therefore  he  can 
never  be  really  a  revolutionist.  And  the  fact 
that  he  doubts  everything  really  gets  in  his  way 
when  he  wants  to  denounce  anything.  For  all 
denunciation  implies  a  moral  doctrine  of  some 
kind  ;  and  the  modern  revolutionist  doubts  not 
only  the  institution  he  denounces,  but  the 
doctrine  by  which  he  denounces  it.  Thus  he 
writes  one  book  complaining  that  imperial 
oppression  insults  the  purity  of  women,  and  then 
he  writes  another  book  (about  the  sex  problem) 
in  which  he  insults  it  himself.  He  curses 
the    Sultan   because    Christian    girls    lose   their 



virginity,  and  then  curses  Mrs.  Grundy  because 
they  keep  it.  As  a  politician,  he  will  cry  out 
that  war  is  a  waste  of  life,  and  then,  as  a 
philosopher,  that  all  life  is  waste  of  time.  A 
Russian  pessimist  will  denounce  a  policeman  for 
killing  a  peasant,  and  then  prove  by  the  highest 
philosophical  principles  that  the  peasant  ought 
to  have  killed  himself.  A  man  denounces 
marriage  as  a  lie,  and  then  denounces  aristocratic 
profligates  for  treating  it  as  a  lie.  He  calls  a 
flag  a  bauble,  and  then  blames  the  oppressors  of 
Poland  or  Ireland  because  they  take  away  that 
bauble.  The  man  of  this  school  goes  first  to 
a  political  meeting,  where  he  complains  that 
savages  are  treated  as  if  they  were  beasts  ;  then 
he  takes  his  hat  and  umbrella  and  goes  on  to 
a  scientific  meeting,  where  he  proves  that  they 
practically  are  beasts.  In  short,  the  modern 
revolutionist,  being  an  infinite  sceptic,  is  always 
engaged  in  undermining  his  own  mines.  In  his 
book  on  politics  he  attacks  men  for  trampling 
on  morality  ;  in  his  book  on  ethics  he  attacks 
morality  for  trampling  on  men.  Therefore  the 
modern  man  in  revolt  has  become  practically 
useless  for  all  purposes  of  revolt.  By  rebelling 
against  everything  he  has  lost  his  right  to  rebel 
against  anything. 

It  may  be  added  that  the  same  blank  and 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

bankruptcy  can  be  observed  in  all  fierce  and 
terrible  types  of  literature,  especially  in  satire. 
Satire  may  be  mad  and  anarchic,  but  it  pre- 
supposes an  admitted  superiority  in  certain 
things  over  others  ;  it  presupposes  a  standard. 
When  little  boys  in  the  street  laugh  at  the 
fatness  of  some  distinguished  journalist,  they  are 
unconsciously  assuming  a  standard  of  Greek 
sculpture.  They  are  appealing  to  the  marble 
Apollo.  And  the  curious  disappearance  of 
satire  from  our  literature  is  an  instance  of  the 
fierce  things  fading  for  want  of  any  principle  to 
be  fierce  about.  Nietzsche  had  some  natural 
talent  for  sarcasm  :  he  could  sneer,  though  he 
could  not  laugh  ;  but  there  is  always  something 
bodiless  and  without  weight  in  his  satire,  simply 
because  it  has  not  any  mass  of  common  morality 
behind  it.  He  is  himself  more  preposterous 
than  anything  he  denounces.  But,  indeed, 
Nietzsche  will  stand  very  well  as  the  type  of  the 
whole  of  this  failure  of  abstract  violence.  The 
softening  of  the  brain  which  ultimately  overtook 
him  was  not  a  physical  accident.  If  Nietzsche 
had  not  ended  in  imbecility,  Nietzscheism  would 
end  in  imbecility.  Thinking  in  isolation  and 
with  pride  ends  in  being  an  idiot.  Every  man 
who  will  not  have  softening  of  the  heart  must 
at  last  have  softening  of  the  brain. 



This  last  attempt  to  evade  intellectualism 
ends  in  intellectualism,  and  therefore  in  death. 
The  sortie  has  failed.  The  wild  worship  of 
lawlessness  and  the  materialist  worship  of  law 
end  in  the  same  void.  Nietzsche  scales  stag- 
gering mountains,  but  he  turns  up  ultimately 
in  Tibet.  He  sits  down  beside  Tolstoy  in  the 
land  of  nothing  and  Nirvana.  They  are  both 
helpless — one  because  he  must  not  grasp  any- 
thing, and  the  other  because  he  must  not  let 
go  of  anything.  The  Tolstoyan's  will  is  frozen 
by  a  Buddhist  instinct  that  all  special  actions 
are  evil.  But  the  Nietzscheite's  will  is  quite 
equally  frozen  by  his  view  that  all  special 
actions  are  good  ;  for  if  all  special  actions  are 
good,  none  of  them  are  special.  They  stand 
at  the  cross-roads,  and  one  hates  all  the  roads 
and  the  other  likes  all  the  roads.  The  result  is 
— well,  some  things  are  not  hard  to  calculate. 
They  stand  at  the  cross-roads. 

Here  I  end  (thank  God)  the  first  and 
dullest  business  of  this  book — the  rough  review 
of  recent  thought.  After  this  I  begin  to  sketch 
a  view  of  life  which  may  not  interest  my 
reader,  but  which,  at  any  rate,  interests  me. 
In  front  of  me,  as  I  close  this  page,  is  a  pile  of 
modern  books  that  I  have  been  turning  over 
for  the  purpose — a  pile  of  ingenuity,  a  pile  of 


The  Suicide  of  Tliouy/d 

futility.  By  the  accident  of  my  present  de- 
tachment, I  can  see  the  inevitable  smash  of  the 
philosophies  of  Schopenhauer  and  Tolstoy, 
Nietzsche  and  Shaw,  as  clearly  as  an  inevitable 
railway  smash  could  be  seen  from  a  balloon. 
They  are  all  on  the  road  to  the  emptiness  of 
the  asylum.  For  madness  may  be  defined  as 
using  mental  activity  so  as  to  reach  mental 
helplessness  ;  and  they  have  nearly  reached  it. 
He  who  thinks  he  is  made  of  glass,  thinks  to 
the  destruction  of  thought  ;  for  glass  cannot 
think.  So  he  who  wills  to  reject  nothing,  wills 
the  destruction  of  will ;  for  will  is  not  only 
the  choice  of  something,  but  the  rejection  of 
almost  everything.  And  as  I  turn  and  tumble 
over  the  clever,  wonderful,  tiresome,  and  use- 
less modern  books,  the  title  of  one  of  them 
rivets  my  eye.  It  is  called  "  Jeanne  d'Arc," 
by  Anatole  France.  I  have  only  glanced  at 
it,  but  a  glance  was  enough  to  remind  me 
of  Renan's  "  Vie  de  J6sus."  It  has  the  same 
strange  method  of  the  reverent  sceptic.  It 
discredits  supernatural  stories  that  have  some 
foundation,  simply  by  telling  natural  stories 
that  have  no  foundation.  Because  we  cannot 
believe  in  what  a  saint  did,  we  are  to  pretend 
that  we  know  exactly  what  he  felt.  But  I  do 
not  mention  either  book  in  order  to  criticise  it, 



but  because  the  accidental  combination  of  the 
names  called  up  two  startling  images  of  sanity 
which  blasted  all  the  books  before  me.  Joan 
of  Arc  was  not  stuck  at  the  cross-roads,  either 
by  rejecting  all  the  paths  like  Tolstoy,  or  by 
accepting  them  all  like  Nietzsche.  She  chose 
a  path,  and  went  down  it  like  a  thunderbolt. 
Yet  Joan,  when  I  came  to  think  of  her,  had  in 
her  all  that  was  true  either  in  Tolstoy  or 
Nietzsche,  all  that  was  even  tolerable  in  either  of 
them.  I  thought  of  all  that  is  noble  in  Tolstoy, 
the  pleasure  in  plain  things,  especially  in  plain 
pity,  the  actualities  of  the  earth,  the  reverence 
for  the  poor,  the  dignity  of  the  bowed  back. 
Joan  of  Arc  had  all  that  and  with  this  great 
addition,  that  she  endured  poverty  as  well  as 
admiring  it  ;  whereas  Tolstoy  is  only  a  typical 
aristocrat  trying  to  find  out  its  secret.  And 
then  I  thought  of  all  that  was  brave  and  proud 
and  pathetic  in  poor  Nietzsche,  and  his  mutiny 
against  the  emptiness  and  timidity  of  our  time.  I 
thought  of  his  cry  for  the  ecstatic  equilibrium  of 
danger,  his  hunger  for  the  rush  of  great  horses, 
his  cry  to  arms.  Well,  Joan  of  Arc  had  all  that, 
and  again  with  this  difference,  that  she  did  not 
praise  fighting,  but  fought.  We  know  that  she 
was  not  afraid  of  an  army,  while  Nietzsche,  for 
all  we  know,  was  afraid  of  a  cow.      Tolstoy 


The  Suicide  of  Thought 

only  praised  the  peasant  ;  she  was  the  peasant, 
Nietzsche  only  praised  the  warrior;  she  was  the 
warrior.  She  beat  them  both  at  their  own  antago- 
nistic ideals  ;  she  was  more  gentle  than  the  one, 
more  violent  than  the  other.  Yet  she  was  a  per- 
fectly practical  person  who  did  something,  while 
they  are  wild  speculators  who  do  nothing.  It 
was  impossible  that  the  thought  should  not  cross 
my  mind  that  she  and  her  faith  had  perhaps 
some  secret  of  moral  unity  and  utility  that  has 
been  lost.  And  with  that  thought  came  a 
larger  one,  and  the  colossal  figure  of  her  Master 
had  also  crossed  the  theatre  of  my  thoughts. 
The  same  modern  difficulty  which  darkened 
the  subject-matter  of  Anatole  France  also 
darkened  that  of  Ernest  Renan.  Renan  also 
divided  his  hero's  pity  from  his  hero's  pugna- 
city. Renan  even  represented  the  righteous 
anger  at  Jerusalem  as  a  mere  nervous  break- 
down after  the  idyllic  expectations  of  Galilee. 
As  if  there  were  any  inconsistency  between 
having  a  love  for  humanity  and  having  a  hatred 
for  inhumanity  1  Altruists,  with  thin,  weak 
voices,  denounce  Christ  as  an  egoist.  Egoists 
(with  even  thinner  and  weaker  voices)  denounce 
Him  as  an  altruist.  In  our  present  atmosphere 
such  cavils  are  comprehensible  enough.  The 
love  of  a  hero  is  more  terrible  than  the  hatred 



of  a  tyrant.  The  hatred  of  a  hero  is  more 
generous  than  the  love  of  a  philanthropist* 
There  is  a  huge  and  heroic  sanity  of  which 
moderns  can  only  collect  the  fragments.  There 
is  a  giant  of  whom  we  see  only  the  lopped 
arms  and  legs  walking  about.  They  have  torn 
the  soul  of  Christ  into  silly  strips,  labelled 
egoism  and  altruism,  and  they  are  equally 
puzzled  by  His  insane  magnificence  and  His 
insane  meekness.  They  have  parted  His  gar- 
ments among  them,  and  for  His  vesture  they 
have  cast  lots  ;  though  the  coat  was  without 
seam  woven  from  the  top  throughout. 


Chapter    IV — The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

WHEN  the  business  man  rebukes 
the  idealism  of  his  office-boy,  it 
is  commonly  in  some  such  speech 
as  this  :  "  Ah,  yes,  when  one  is 
young,  one  has  these  ideals  in  the  abstract  and 
these  castles  in  the  air  ;  but  in  middle  age  they 
all  break  up  like  clouds,  and  one  comes  down 
to  a  belief  in  practical  politics,  to  using  the 
machinery  one  has  and  getting  on  with  the 
world  as  it  is."  Thus,  at  least,  venerable  and 
philanthropic  old  men  now  in  their  honoured 
graves  used  to  talk  to  me  when  I  was  a  boy. 
But  since  then  I  have  grown  up  and  have  dis- 
covered that  these  philanthropic  old  men  were 
telling  lies.  What  has  really  happened  is 
exactly  the  opposite  of  what  they  said  would 
happen.  They  said  that  I  should  lose  my  ideals 
and  begin  to  believe  in  the  methods  of  practical 
politicians.  Now,  I  have  not  lost  my  ideals  in 
the  least ;  my  faith  in  fundamentals  is  exactly 
what  it  always  was.  What  I  have  lost  is  my 
old  childlike  faith  in  practical  politics.  I  am 
still  as  much  concerned  as  ever  about  the  Battle 
of  Armageddon  ;  but  I  am  not  so  much  con- 
cerned about  the  General  Election.     As  a  babe 



I  leapt  up  on  my  mother's  knee  at  the  mere 
mention  of  it.  No  ;  the  vision  is  always  solid 
and  reliable.  The  vision  is  always  a  fact.  It  is 
the  reality  that  is  often  a  fraud.  As  much  as  I 
ever  did,  more  than  I  ever  did,  I  believe  in 
Liberalism.  But  there  was  a  rosy  time  of 
innocence  when  I  believed  in  Liberals. 

I  take  this  instance  of  one  of  the  enduring 
faiths  because,  having  now  to  trace  the  roots  of 
my  personal  speculation,  this  may  be  counted,  I 
think,  as  the  only  positive  bias.  I  was  brought 
up  a  Liberal,  and  have  always  believed  in  demo- 
cracy, in  the  elementary  liberal  doctrine  of  a 
self-governing  humanity.  If  any  one  finds  the 
phrase  vague  or  threadbare,  I  can  only  pause 
for  a  moment  to  explain  that  the  principle  of 
democracy,  as  I  mean  it,  can  be  stated  in  two 
propositions.  The  first  is  this  :  that  the  things 
common  to  all  men  are  more  important  than 
the  things  peculiar  to  any  men.  Ordinary 
things  are  more  valuable  than  extraordinary 
things  ;  nay,  they  are  more  extraordinary. 
Man  is  something  more  awful  than  men  ; 
something  more  strange.  The  sense  of  the 
miracle  of  humanity  itself  should  be  always 
more  vivid  to  us  than  any  marvels  of  power, 
intellect,  art,  or  civilization.  The  mere  man 
on    two    legs,    as    such,    should    be     felt    as 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

something  more  heart-breaking  than  any  music 
and  more  startling  than  any  caricature.  Death  is 
more  tragic  even  than  death  by  starvation. 
Having  a  nose  is  more  comic  even  than  having 
a  Norman  nose. 

This  is  the  first  principle  of  democracy  :  that 
the  essential  things  in  men  are  the  things  they 
hold  in  common,  not  the  things  they  hold 
separately.  And  the  second  principle  is  merely 
this  :  that  the  political  instinct  or  desire  is  one 
of  these  things  which  they  hold  in  common. 
Falling  in  love  is  more  poetical  than  dropping 
into  poetry.  The  democratic  contention  is  that 
government  (helping  to  rule  the  tribe)  is  a 
thing  like  falling  in  love,  and  not  a  thing  like 
dropping  into  poetry.  It  is  not  something 
analogous  to  playing  the  church  organ,  painting 
on  vellum,  discovering  the  North  Pole  (that 
insidious  habit),  looping  the  loop,  being 
Astronomer  Royal,  and  so  on.  For  these  things 
we  do  not  wish  a  man  to  do  at  all  unless  he 
does  them  well.  It  is,  on  the  contrary,  a  thing 
analogous  to  writing  one's  own  love-letters  or 
blowing  one's  own  nose.  These  things  we 
want  a  man  to  do  for  himself,  even  if  he  does 
them  badly.  I  am  not  here  arguing  the  truth 
of  any  of  these  conceptions  ;  I  know  that  some 
moderns  are  asking  to  have  their  wives  chosen 

81  i) 


by  scientists,  and  they  may  soon  be  asking,  for 
all  I  know,  to  have  their  noses  blown  by  nurses. 
I  merely  say  that  mankind  does  recognize 
these  universal  human  functions,  and  that 
democracy  classes  government  among  them. 
In  short,  the  democratic  faith  is  this  :  that  the 
most  terribly  important  things  must  be  left  to 
ordinary  men  themselves — the  mating  of  the 
sexes,  the  rearing  of  the  young,  the  laws  of  the 
state.  This  is  democracy  ;  and  in  this  I  have 
always  believed. 

But  there  is  one  thing  that  I  have  never 
from  my  youth  up  been  able  to  understand.  I 
have  never  been  able  to  understand  where  people 
got  the  idea  that  democracy  was  in  some  way 
opposed  to  tradition.  It  is  obvious  that  tra- 
dition is  only  democracy  extended  through 
time.  It  is  trusting  to  a  consensus  of  common 
human  voices  rather  than  to  some  isolated  or 
arbitrary  record.  The  man  who  quotes  some 
German  historian  against  the  tradition  of  the 
Catholic  Church,  for  instance,  is  strictly  appeal- 
ing to  aristocracy.  He  is  appealing  to  the 
superiority  of  one  expert  against  the  awful 
authority  of  a  mob.  It  is  quite  easy  to  see  why 
a  legend  is  treated,  and  ought  to  be  treated,  more 
respectfully  than  a  book  of  history.  The  legend 
is  generally  made  by  the  majority  of  people  in 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

the  village,  who  are  sane.  The  book  is  generally 
written  by  the  one  man  in  the  village  who  is  mad. 
Those  who  urge  against  tradition  that  men  in 
the  past  were  ignorant  may  go  and  urge  it  at 
the  Carlton  Club,  along  with  the  statement  that 
voters  in  the  slums  are  ignorant.  It  will  not 
do  for  us.  If  we  attach  great  importance  to 
the  opinion  of  ordinary  men  in  great  unanimity 
when  we  are  dealing  with  daily  matters,  there 
is  no  reason  why  we  should  disregard  it  when 
we  are  dealing  with  history  or  fable.  Tradition 
may  be  defined  as  an  extension  of  the  franchise. 
Tradition  means  giving  votes  to  the  most 
obscure  of  all  classes,  our  ancestors.  It  is  the 
democracy  of  the  dead.  Tradition  refuses  to 
submit  to  the-  small  and  arrogant  oligarchy  of 
those  who  merelv  happen  to  be  walking  about. 
All  democrats  object  to  men  being  disqualified 
by  the  accident  of  birth  ;  tradition  objects  to 
their  being  disqualified  by  the  accident  of 
death.  Democracy  tells  us  not  to  neglect  a 
good  man's  opinion,  even  if  he  is  our  groom  ; 
tradition  asks  us  not  to  neglect  a  good  man's 
opinion,  even  if  he  is  our  father.  I,  at  any  rate, 
cannot  separate  the  two  ideas  of  democracy  and 
tradition  ;  it  seems  evident  to  me  that  they  are 
the  same  idea.  We  will  have  the  dead  at  our 
councils.    The  ancient  Greeks  voted  by  stones  ; 



these  shall  vote  by  tombstones.  It  is  all  quite 
regular  and  official,  for  most  tombstones,  like 
most  ballot  papers,  are  marked  with  a  cross. 

I  have  first  to  say,  therefore,  that  if  I  have 
had  a  bias,  it  was  always  a  bias  in  favour  of 
democracy,  and  therefore  of  tradition.  Before 
we  come  to  any  theoretic  or  logical  beginnings 
I  am  content  to  allow  for  that  personal  equation ; 
I  have  always  been  more  inclined  to  believe  the 
ruck  of  hard-working  people  than  to  believe  that 
special  and  troublesome  literary  class  to  which 
I  belong.  I  prefer  even  the  fancies  and  pre- 
judices of  the  people  who  see  life  from  the 
inside  to  the  clearest  demonstrations  of  the 
people  who  see  life  from  the  outside.  I  would 
always  trust  the  old  wives'  fables  against  the 
old  maids'  facts.  As  long  as  wit  is  mother  wit 
it  can  be  as  wild  as  it  pleases. 

Now,  I  have  to  put  together  a  general 
position,  and  I  pretend  to  no  training  in 
such  things.  I  propose  to  do  it,  therefore, 
by  writing  down  one  after  another  the  three 
or  four  fundamental  ideas  which  I  have  found 
for  myself,  pretty  much  in  the  way  that  I 
found  them.  Then  I  shall  roughly  synthesise 
them,  summing  up  my  personal  philosophy  or 
natural  religion  ;  then  I  shall  describe  my 
startling  discovery   that   the   whole   thing   had 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

been  discovered  before.  It  had  been  dis- 
covered by  Christianity.  But  of  these  pro- 
found persuasions  which  I  have  to  recount  in 
order,  the  earliest  was  concerned  with  this 
element  of  popular  tradition.  And  without 
the  foregoing  explanation  touching  tradition 
and  democracy  I  could  hardly  make  my  mental 
experience  clear.  As  it  is,  I  do  not  know 
whether  I  can  make  it  clear,  but  I  now  propose 
to  try. 

My  first  and  last  philosophy,  that  which  I 
believe  in  with  unbroken  certainty,  I  learnt  in 
the  nursery.  I  generally  learnt  it  from  a  nurse  ; 
that  is,  from  the  solemn  and  star-appointed 
priestess  at  once  of  democracy  and  tradition. 
The  things  I  believed  most  then,  the  things  I 
believe  most  now,  are  the  things  called  fairy 
tales.  They  seem  to  me  to  be  the  entirely 
reasonable  things.  They  are  not  fantasies  : 
compared  with  them  other  things  are  fantastic. 
Compared  with  them  religion  and  rationalism 
are  both  abnormal,  though  religion  is  abnormally 
right  and  rationalism  abnormally  wrong. 
Fairyland  is  nothing  but  the  sunny  country  of 
common  sense.  It  is  not  earth  that  judges 
heaven,  but  heaven  that  judges  earth  ;  so  for 
me  at  least  it  was  not  earth  that  criticised 
elfland,   but   elfland    that    criticised    the   earth. 



I  knew  the  magic  beanstalk  before  I  had  tasted 
beans  ;  I  was  sure  of  the  Man  in  the  Moon 
before  I  was  certain  of  the  moon.  This  was  at 
one  with  all  popular  tradition.  Modern  minor 
poets  are  naturalists,  and  talk  about  the  bush 
or  the  brook  ;  but  the  singers  of  the  old  epics 
and  fables  were  supernaturalists,  and  talked 
about  the  gods  of  brook  and  bush.  That  is 
what  the  moderns  mean  when  they  say  that  the 
ancients  did  not  "  appreciate  Nature,"  because 
they  said  that  Nature  was  divine.  Old  nurses 
do  not  tell  children  about  the  grass,  but  about 
the  fairies  that  dance  on  the  grass  ;  and  the  old 
Greeks  could  not  see  the  trees  for  the  dryads. 

But  I  deal  here  with  what  ethic  and  philo- 
sophy come  from  being  fed  on  fairy  tales.  If 
I  were  describing  them  in  detail  I  could  note 
many  noble  and  healthy  principles  that  arise 
from  them.  There  is  the  chivalrous  lesson  of 
"  Jack  the  Giant  Killer "  ;  that  giants  should 
be  killed  because  they  are  gigantic.  It  is  a 
manly  mutiny  against  pride  as  such.  For  the 
rebel  is  older  than  all  the  kingdoms,  and  the 
Jacobin  has  more  tradition  than  the  Jacobite. 
There  is  the  lesson  of  "  Cinderella,"  which  is 
the  same  as  that  of  the  Magnificat — exaltavit 
humiles.  There  is  the  great  lesson  of  "  Beauty 
and  the  Beast "  ;    that  a  thing  must  be  loved 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

before  it  is  loveable.  There  is  the  terrible 
allegory  of  the  "  Sleeping  Beauty,"  which  tells 
how  the  human  creature  was  blessed  with  all 
birthday  gifts,  yet  cursed  with  death  ;  and  how 
death  also  may  perhaps  be  softened  to  a  sleep. 
But  I  am  not  concerned  with  any  of  the 
separate  statutes  of  elfland,  but  with  the  whole 
spirit  of  its  law,  which  I  learnt  before  I  could 
speak,  and  shall  retain  when  I  cannot  write. 
I  am  concerned  with  a  certain  way  of  looking 
at  life,  which  was  created  in  me  by  the  fairy 
tales,  but  has  since  been  meekly  ratified  by  the 
mere  facts. 

It  might  be  stated  this  way.  There  are 
certain  sequences  or  developments  (cases  of  one 
thing  following  another),  which  are,  in  the  true 
sense  of  the  word,  reasonable.  They  are,  in 
the  true  sense  of  the  word,  necessary.  Such 
are  mathematical  and  merely  logical  sequences. 
We  in  fairyland  (who  are  the  most  reasonable 
of  all  creatures)  admit  that  reason  and  that 
necessity.  For  instance,  if  the  Ugly  Sisters  are 
older  than  Cinderella,  it  is  (in  an  iron  and 
awful  sense)  necessary  that  Cinderella  is  younger 
than  the  Ugly  Sisters.  There  is  no  getting 
out  of  it.  Haeckel  may  talk  as  much  fatalism 
about  that  fact  as  he  pleases  :  it  really  must  be. 
If  Jack  is  the  son  of  a  miller,  a  miller  is  the 



father  cf  Jack.  Cold  reason  decrees  it  from 
her  awful  throne  :  and  we  in  fairyland  submit. 
If  the  three  brothers  all  ride  horses,  there  are 
six  animals  and  eighteen  legs  involved  :  that  is 
true  rationalism,  and  fairyland  is  full  of  it. 
But  as  I  put  my  head  over  the  hedge  of  the 
elves  and  began  to  take  notice  of  the  natural 
world,  I  observed  an  extraordinary  thing.  I 
observed  that  learned  men  in  spectacles  were 
talking  of  the  actual  things  that  happened — 
dawn  and  death  and  so  on — as  if  they  were 
rational  and  inevitable.  They  talked  as  if  the 
fact  that  trees  bear  fruit  were  just  as  necessary 
as  the  fact  that  two  and  one  trees  make  three. 
But  it  is  not.  There  is  an  enormous  difference 
by  the  test  of  fairyland  ;  wrhich  is  the  test  of 
the  imagination.  You  cannot  imagine  two  and 
one  not  making  three.  But  you  can  easily 
imagine  trees  not  growing  fruit  ;  you  can 
imagine  them  growing  golden  candlesticks  or 
tigers  hanging  on  by  the  tail.  These  men  in 
spectacles  spoke  much  of  a  man  named  Newton, 
who  was  hit  by  an  apple,  and  who  discovered  a 
law.  But  they  could  not  be  got  to  see  the  dis- 
tinction between  a  true  law,  a  law  of  reason, 
and  the  mere  fact  of  apples  falling.  If  the 
apple  hit  Newton's  nose,  Newton's  nose  hit  the 
apple.     That  is  a  true  necessity  :  because  we 


The  Ethics  of  Elfldnd 

cannot  conceive  the  one  occurring  without  the 
other.  But  we  can  quite  well  conceive  the 
apple  not  falling  on  his  nose  ;  we  can  fancy  it 
flying  ardently  through  the  air  to  hit  some 
other  nose,  of  which  it  had  a  more  definite  dis- 
like. We  have  always  in  our  fairy  tales  kept 
this  sharp  distinction  between  the  science  of 
mental  relations,  in  which  there  really  are  laws, 
and  the  science  of  physical  facts,  in  which  there 
are  no  laws,  but  only  weird  repetitions.  We 
believe  in  bodily  miracles,  but  not  in  mental 
impossibilities.  We  believe  that  a  Bean-stalk 
climbed  up  to  Heaven  ;  but  that  does  not  at 
all  confuse  our  convictions  on  the  philosophical 
question  of  how  many  beans  make  five. 

Here  is  the  peculiar  perfection  of  tone  and 
truth  in  the  nursery  tales.  The  man  of  science 
says,  "Cut  the  stalk,  and  the  apple  will  fall"  ; 
but  he  says  it  calmly,  as  if  the  one  idea  really 
led  up  to  the  other.  The  witch  in  the  fairy 
tale  says,  "  Blow  the  horn,  and  the  ogre's  castle 
will  fall  "  ;  but  she  does  not  say  it  as  if  it  were 
something  in  which  the  effect  obviously  arose 
out  of  the  cause.  Doubtless  she  has  given  the 
advice  to  many  champions,  and  has  seen  many 
castles  fall,  but  she  does  not  lose  either  her 
wonder  or  her  reason.  She  does  not  muddle 
her  head  until  it  imagines  a  necessary  mental 

89  d  2 


connection  between  a  horn  and  a  falling  tower. 
But  the  scientific  men  do  muddle  their  heads, 
until  they  imagine  a  necessary  mental  con- 
nection between  an  apple  leaving  the  tree  and 
an  apple  reaching  the  ground.  They  do  really 
talk  as  if  they  had  found  not  only  a  set  of 
marvellous  facts,  but  a  truth  connecting  those 
facts.  They  do  talk  as  if  the  connection  of 
two  strange  things  physically  connected  them 
philosophically.  They  feel  that  because  one 
incomprehensible  thing  constantly  follows  an- 
other incomprehensible  thing  the  two  together 
somehow  make  up  a  comprehensible  thing. 
Two  black  riddles  make  a  white  answer. 

In  fairyland  we  avoid  the  word  "  law  "  ;  but 
in  the  land  of  science  they  are  singularly  fond 
of  it.  Thus  they  will  call  some  interesting 
conjecture  about  how  forgotten  folks  pro- 
nounced the  alphabet,  Grimm's  Law.  But 
Grimm's  Law  is  far  less  intellectual  than 
Grimm's  Fairy  Tales.  The  tales  are,  at  any 
rate,  certainly  tales  ;  while  the  law  is  not  a 
law.  A  law  implies  that  we  know  the  nature 
of  the  generalisation  and  enactment  ;  not 
merely  that  we  have  noticed  some  of  the 
effects.  If  there  is  a  law  that  pick-pockets 
shall  go  to  prison,  it  implies  that  there  is  an 
imaginable  mental  connection  between  the  idea 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

ot  prison  and  the  idea  of  picking  pockets. 
And  we  know  what  the  idea  is.  We  can  say 
why  we  take  liberty  from  a  man  who  takes 
liberties.  But  we  cannot  say  why  an  egg  can 
turn  into  a  chicken  any  more  than  we  can  say 
why  a  bear  could  turn  into  a  fairy  prince.  As 
ideas,  the  egg  and  the  chicken  are  further  off 
each  other  than  the  bear  and  the  prince  ;  for 
no  egg  in  itself  suggests  a  chicken,  whereas 
some  princes  do  suggest  bears.  Granted,  then, 
that  certain  transformations  do  happen,  it  is 
essential  that  we  should  regard  them  in  the 
philosophic  manner  of  fairy  tales,  not  in  the 
unphilosophic  manner  of  science  and  the  "  Laws 
of  Nature."  When  we  are  asked  why  eggs  turn 
to  birds  or  fruits  fall  in  autumn,  we  must  answer 
exactly  as  the  fairy  godmother  would  answer  if 
Cinderella  asked  her  why  mice  turned  to  horses 
or  her  clothes  fell  from  her  at  twelve  o'clock. 
We  must  answer  that  it  is  magic.  It  is  not  a 
u  law,"  for  we  do  not  understand  its  general 
formula.  It  is  not  a  necessity,  for  though  we 
can  count  on  it  happening  practically,  we  have 
no  right  to  say  that  it  must  always  happen.  It 
is  no  argument  for  unalterable  law  (as  Huxley 
fancied)  that  we  count  on  the  ordinary  course 
of  things.  We  do  not  count  on  it ;  we  bet 
on   it.     We   risk   the   remote   possibility   of  a 



miracle  as  we  do  that  of  a  poisoned  pancake 
or  a  world-destroying  comet.  We  leave  it  out 
of  account,  not  because  it  is  a  miracle,  and 
therefore  an  impossibility,  but  because  it  is  a 
miracle,  and  therefore  an  exception.  All  the 
terms  used  in  the  science  books,  "  law," 
"  necessity,"  "  order,"  "  tendency,"  and  so  on, 
are  really  unintellectual,  because  they  assume 
an  inner  synthesis  which  we  do  not  possess. 
The  only  words  that  ever  satisfied  me  as 
describing  Nature  are  the  terms  used  in  the 
fairy  books,  "  charm,"  "  spell,"  "  enchantment." 
They  express  the  arbitrariness  of  the  fact  and 
its  mystery.  A  tree  grows  fruit  because  it  is 
a  magic  tree.  Water  runs  downhill  because 
it  is  bewitched.  The  sun  shines  because  it  is 

I  deny  altogether  that  this  is  fantastic  or 
even  mystical.  We  may  have  some  mysticism 
later  on ;  but  this  fairy-tale  language  about 
things  is  simply  rational  and  agnostic.  It  is 
the  only  way  I  can  express  in  words  my  clear 
and  definite  perception  that  one  thing  is  quite 
distinct  from  another  ;  that  there  is  no  logical 
connection  between  flying  and  laying  eggs. 
It  is  the  man  who  talks  about  "  a  law " 
that  he  has  never  seen  who  is  the  mystic. 
Nay,    the  ordinary  scientific  man    is  strictly  a 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

sentimentalist.  He  is  a  sentimentalist  in  this 
essential  sense,  that  he  is  soaked  and  swept 
away  by  mere  associations.  He  has  so  often 
seen  birds  fly  and  lay  eggs  that  he  feels  as  if 
there  must  be  some  dreamy,  tender  connection 
between  the  two  ideas,  whereas  there  is  none. 
A  forlorn  lover  might  be  unable  to  dissociate 
the  moon  from  lost  love  ;  so  the  materialist  is 
unable  to  dissociate  the  moon  from  the  tide. 
In  both  cases  there  is  no  connection,  except 
that  one  has  seen  them  together.  A  senti- 
mentalist might  shed  tears  at  the  smell  of 
apple-blossom,  because,  by  a  dark  association 
of  his  own,  it  reminded  him  of  his  boyhood. 
So  the  materialist  professor  (though  he  conceals 
his  tears)  is  yet  a  sentimentalist,  because,  by  a 
dark  association  of  his  own,  apple-blossoms 
remind  him  of  apples.  But  the  cool  rationalist 
from  fairyland  does  not  see  why,  in  the  abstract, 
the  apple  tree  should  not  grow  crimson  tulips  ; 
it  sometimes  does  in  his  country. 

This  elementary  wonder,  however,  is  not  a 
mere  fancy  derived  from  the  fairy  tales  ;  on 
the  contrary,  all  the  fire  of  the  fairy  tales  is 
derived  from  this.  Just  as  we  all  like  love 
tales  because  there  is  an  instinct  of  sex,  we  all 
like  astonishing  tales  because  they  touch  the 
nerve  of  the  ancient  instinct  of  astonishment 



This  is  proved  by  the  fact  that  when  we  are 
very  young  children  we  do  not  need  fairy 
tales :  we  only  need  tales.  Mere  life  is 
interesting  enough.  A  child  of  seven  is 
excited  by  being  told  that  Tommy  opened  a 
door  and  saw  a  dragon.  But  a  child  of  three 
is  excited  by  being  told  that  Tommy  opened  a 
door.  Boys  like  romantic  tales  ;  but  babies 
like  realistic  tales — because  they  find  them 
romantic.  In  fact,  a  baby  is  about  the  only 
person,  I  should  think,  to  whom  a  modern 
realistic  novel  could  be  read  without  boring 
him.  This  proves  that  even  nursery  tales  only 
echo  an  almost  pre-natal  leap  of  interest  and 
amazement.  These  tales  say  that  apples  were 
golden  only  to  refresh  the  forgotten  moment 
when  we  found  that  they  were  green.  They 
make  rivers  run  with  wine  only  to  make  us 
remember,  for  one  wild  moment,  that  they  run 
with  water.  I  have  said  that  this  is  wholly 
reasonable  and  even  agnostic.  And,  indeed, 
on  this  point  I  am  all  for  the  higher  agnosti- 
cism ;  its  better  name  is  Ignorance.  We  have 
all  read  in  scientific  books,  and,  indeed,  in  all 
romances,  the  story  of  the  man  who  has 
forgotten  his  name.  This  man  walks  about 
the  streets  and  can  see  and  appreciate  every- 
thing ;    only   he  cannot  remember  who  he  is. 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

Well,   every    man    is   that   man    in    the    story. 
Every    man    has   forgotten   who    he    is.      One 
may    understand    the    cosmos,    but    never   the 
ego  ;    the  self  is  more  distant   than   any   star. 
Thou  shalt  love  the  Lord  thy  God  ;   but  thou 
shalt  not  know  thyself.     We  are  all  under  the 
same  mental  calamity  ;    we  have   all   forgotten 
our  names.     We   have  all  forgotten   what   we 
really  are.       All  that   we   call  common    sense 
and  rationality  and  practicality  and  positivism 
only  means  that  for  certain  dead  levels  of  our 
life   we    forget    that  we   have   forgotten.      All 
that   we  call    spirit  and    art  and  ecstacy    only 
means  that  for  one  awful  instant  we  remember 
that  we  forget. 

But  though  (like  the  man  without  memory 
in  the  novel)  we  walk  the  streets  wkh  a  sort  of 
half-witted  admiration,  still  it  is  admiration.  It 
is  admiration  in  English  and  not  only  admiration 
in  Latin.  The  wonder  has  a  positive  element 
of  praise.  This  is  the  next  milestone  to  be 
definitely  marked  on  our  road  through  fairy- 
land. I  shall  speak  in  the  next  chapter  about 
optimists  and  pessimists  in  their  intellectual 
aspect,  so  far  as  they  have  one.  Here  I  am 
only  trying  to  describe  the  enormous  emotions 
which  cannot  be  described.  And  the  strongest 
emotion  was    that    life    was    as    precious    as 



it  was  puzzling.  It  was  an  ecstacy  because 
it  was  an  adventure ;  it  was  an  adventure 
because  it  was  an  opportunity.  The  goodness 
of  the  fairy  tale  was  not  affected  by  the  fact 
that  there  might  be  more  dragons  than 
princesses  ;  it  was  good  to  be  in  a  fairy  tale. 
The  test  of  all  happiness  is  gratitude  ;  and  I 
felt  grateful,  though  I  hardly  knew  to  whom. 
Children  are  grateful  when  Santa  Claus  puts 
in  their  stockings  gifts  of  toys  or  sweets. 
Could  1  not  be  grateful  to  Santa  Claus  when 
he  put  in  my  stockings  the  gift  of  two 
miraculous  legs  ?  We  thank  people  for  birth- 
day presents  of  cigars  and  slippers.  Can 
I  thank  no  one  for  the  birthday  present  of 

There  were,  then,  these  two  first  feelings, 
indefensible  and  indisputable.  The  world  was 
a  shock,  but  it  was  not  merely  shocking ; 
existence  was  a  surprise,  but  it  was  a  pleasant 
surprise.  In  fact,  all  my  first  views  were 
exactly  uttered  in  a  riddle  that  stuck  in  my 
brain  from  boyhood.  The  question  was, 
"  What  did  the  first  frog  say  ? "  And  the 
answer  was,  "  Lord,  how  you  made  me  jump  !  " 
That  says  succinctly  all  that  I  am  saying.  God 
made  the  frog  jump ;  but  the  frog  prefers 
jumping.     But   when   these  things  are  settled 


The  Ethics  of  Klfland 

there  enters  the  second  great  principle  of  the 
fairy  philosophy. 

Any  one  can  see  it  who  will  simply  read 
"  Grimm's  Fairy  Tales  M  or  the  fine  collections 
of  Mr.  Andrew  Lang.  For  the  pleasure  of 
pedantry  I  will  call  it  the  Doctrine  of  Con- 
ditional Joy.  Touchstone  talked  of  much 
virtue  in  an  "if"  ;  according  to  elfin  ethics 
all  virtue  is  in  an  "  if."  The  note  of  the  fairy 
utterance  always  is,  "  You  may  live  in  a  palace 
of  gold  and  sapphire,  if  you  do  not  say  the 
word  c  cow ' "  ;  or  "  You  may  live  happily  with 
the  King's  daughter,  if  you  do  not  show  her  an 
onion."  The  vision  always  hangs  upon  a  veto. 
All  the  dizzy  and  colossal  things  conceded 
depend  upon  one  small  thing  withheld.  All 
the  wild  and  whirling  things  that  are  let  loose 
depend  upon  one  thing  that  is  forbidden.  Mr. 
W.  B.  Yeats,  in  his  exquisite  and  piercing 
elfin  poetry,  describes  the  elves  as  lawless  ; 
they  plunge  in  innocent  anarchy  on  the  un- 
bridled horses  of  the  air — 

"Ride  on  the  crest  or  the  dishevelled  tide, 
And  dance  upon  the  mountains  like  a  flame. M 

It  is  a  dreadful  thing  to  say  that  Mr.  W.  B. 
Yeats  does  not  understand  fairyland.  But  I 
do  say  it.     He  is  an  ironical  Irishman,  full  of 



intellectual  reactions.  He  is  not  stupid 
enough  to  understand  fairyland.  Fairies  prefer 
people  of  the  yokel  type  like  myself;  people 
who  gape  and  grin  and  do  as  they  are  told. 
Mr.  Yeats  reads  into  elfland  all  the  righteous 
insurrection  of  his  own  race.  But  the  lawless- 
ness of  Ireland  is  a  Christian  lawlessness, 
founded  on  reason  and  justice.  The  Fenian 
is  rebelling  against  something  he  understands 
only  too  well  ;  but  the  true  citizen  of  fairy- 
land is  obeying  something  that  he  does  not 
understand  at  all.  In  the  fairy  tale  an  incom- 
prehensible happiness  rests  upon  an  incom- 
prehensible condition.  A  box  is  opened,  and 
all  evils  fly  out.  A  word  is  forgotten,  and 
cities  perish.  A  lamp  is  lit,  and  love  flies  away. 
A  flower  is  plucked,  and  human  lives  are 
forfeited.  An  apple  is  eaten,  and  the  hope  of 
God  is  gone. 

This  is  the  tone  of  fairy  tales,  and  it  is 
certainly  not  lawlessness  or  even  liberty,  though 
men  under  a  mean  modern  tyranny  may  think  it 
liberty  by  comparison.  People  out  of  Portland 
Gaol  might  think  Fleet  Street  free  ;  but  closer 
study  will  prove  that  both  fairies  and  journalists 
are  the  slaves  of  duty.  Fairy  godmothers 
seem  at  least  as  strict  as  other  godmothers. 
Cinderella  received  a  coach  out  of  Wonderland 


The  Ethics  of  Klfland 

and  a  coachman  out  of  nowhere,  but  she 
received  a  command — which  might  have  come 
out  of  Brixton — that  she  should  be  back  by 
twelve.  Also,  she  had  a  glass  slipper  ;  and  it 
cannot  be  a  coincidence  that  glass  is  so  common 
a  substance  in  folk-lore.  This  princess  lives  in 
a  glass  castle,  that  princess  on  a  glass  hill  ;  this 
one  sees  all  things  in  a  mirror  ;  they  may  all 
live  in  glass  houses  if  they  will  not  throw 
stones.  For  this  thin  glitter  of  glass  every- 
where is  the  expression  of  the  fact  that  the 
happiness  is  bright  but  brittle,  like  the  sub- 
stance most  easily  smashed  by  a  housemaid  or 
a  cat.  And  this  fairy-tale  sentiment  also  sank 
into  me  and  became  my  sentiment  towards  the 
whole  world.  I  felt  and  feel  that  life  itself  is 
as  bright  as  the  diamond,  but  as  brittle  as  the 
window-pane ;  and  when  the  heavens  were 
compared  to  the  terrible  crystal  I  can  remember 
a  shudder.  I  was  afraid  that  God  would  drop 
the  cosmos  with  a  crash. 

Remember,  however,  that  to  be  breakable  is 
not  the  same  as  to  be  perishable.  Strike  a  glass, 
and  it  will  not  endure  an  instant  ;  simply  do 
not  strike  it,  and  it  will  endure  a  thousand  years. 
Such,  it  seemed,  was  the  joy  of  man,  either  in 
elfland  or  on  earth  ;  the  happiness  depended 
on  not  doing  something  which  you  could  at  any 



moment  do  and  which,  very  often,  it  was  not 
obvious  why  you  should  not  do.  Now,  the 
point  here  is  that  to  me  this  did  not  seem 
unjust.  If  the  miller's  third  son  said  to  the 
fairy,  l€  Explain  why  I  must  not  stand  on  my 
head  in  the  fairy  palace,"  the  other  might  fairly 
reply,  "  Well,  if  it  comes  to  that,  explain  the 
fairy  palace."  If  Cinderella  says,  "  How  is  it 
that  I  must  leave  the  ball  at  twelve  ? "  her  god- 
mother might  answer,  "  How  is  it  that  you  are 
going  there  till  twelve  ?  "  If  I  leave  a  man  in 
my  will  ten  talking  elephants  and  a  hundred 
winged  horses,  he  cannot  complain  if  the  con- 
ditions partake  of  the  slight  eccentricity  of  the 
gift.  He  must  not  look  a  winged  horse  in  the 
mouth.  And  it  seemed  to  me  that  existence 
was  itself  so  very  eccentric  a  legacy  that  I  could 
not  complain  of  not  understanding  the  limita- 
tions of  the  vision  when  I  did  not  understand 
the  vision  they  limited.  The  frame  was  no 
stranger  than  the  picture.  The  veto  might 
well  be  as  wild  as  the  vision  ;  it  might  be  as 
startling  as  the  sun,  as  elusive  as  the  waters,  as 
fantastic  and  terrible  as  the  towering  trees. 

For  this  reason  (we  may  call  it  the  fairy  god- 
mother philosophy)  I  never  could  join  the 
young  men  of  my  time  in  feeling  what  they 
called  the  general  sentiment  of  revolt.     I  should 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

have  resisted,  let  us  hope,  any  rules  that  were 
evil,  and  with  these  and  their  definition  I  shall 
deal  in  another  chapter.  But  I  did  not  feel 
disposed  to  resist  any  rule  merely  because  it 
was  mysterious.  Estates  are  sometimes  held 
by  foolish  forms,  the  breaking  of  a  stick  or  the 
payment  of  a  peppercorn  :  I  was  willing  to 
hold  the  huge  estate  of  earth  and  heaven  by 
any  such  feudal  fantasy.  It  could  not  well  be 
wilder  than  the  fact  that  I  was  allowed  to  hold 
it  at  all.  At  this  stage  I  give  only  one  ethical 
instance  to  show  my  meaning.  I  could  never 
mix  in  the  common  murmur  of  that  rising 
generation  against  monogamy,  because  no 
restriction  on  sex  seemed  so  odd  and  unex- 
pected as  sex  itself.  To  be  allowed,  like 
Endymion,  to  make  love  to  the  moon  and  then 
to  complain  that  Jupiter  kept  his  own  moons  in 
a  harem  seemed  to  me  (bred  on  fairy  tales  like 
Endymion's)  a  vulgar  anti-climax.  Keeping 
to  one  woman  is  a  small  price  for  so  much  as 
seeing  one  woman.  To  complain  that  I  could 
only  be  married  once  was  like  complaining  that 
I  had  only  been  born  once.  It  was  incom- 
mensurate with  the  terrible  excitement  of  which 
one  was  talking.  It  showed,  not  an  exagger- 
ated sensibility  to  sex,  but  a  curious  insensibility 
to  it     A  man  is  a  fool  who  complains  that  he 



cannot  enter  Eden  by  five  gates  at  once. 
Polygamy  is  a  lack  of  the  realization  of  sex  ;  it 
is  like  a  man  plucking  five  pears  in  mere 
absence  of  mind.  The  aesthetes  touched  the 
last  insane  limits  of  language  in  their  eulogy  on 
lovely  things.  The  thistledown  made  them 
weep  ;  a  burnished  beetle  brought  them  to 
their  knees.  Yet  their  emotion  never  impressed 
me  for  an  instant,  for  this  reason,  that  it  never 
occurred  to  them  to  pay  for  their  pleasure  in 
any  sort  of  symbolic  sacrifice.  Men  (I  felt) 
might  fast  forty  days  for  the  sake  of  hearing  a 
blackbird  sing.  Men  might  go  through  fire  to 
find  a  cowslip.  Yet  these  lovers  of  beauty 
could  not  even  keep  sober  for  the  blackbird. 
They  would  not  go  through  common  Christian 
marriage  by  way  of  recompense  to  the  cowslip. 
Surely  one  might  pay  for  extraordinary  joy  in 
ordinary  morals.  Oscar  Wilde  said  that  sun- 
sets were  not  valued  because  we  could  not  pay 
for  sunsets.  But  Oscar  Wilde  was  wrong ; 
we  can  pay  for  sunsets.  We  can  pay  for  them 
by  not  being  Oscar  Wilde. 

Well,  I  left  the  fairy  tales  lying  on  the  floor 
of  the  nursery,  and  I  have  not  found  any  books 
so  sensible  since.  I  left  the  nurse  guardian  of 
tradition  and  democracy,  and  I  have  not  found 
any  modern  type  so  sanely  radical  or  so  sanely 


The  Ethics  of  Elfiand 

conservative.  But  the  matter  for  important 
comment  was  here  that  when  I  first  went  out 
into  the  mental  atmosphere  of  the  modern 
world,  I  found  that  the  modern  world  was 
positively  opposed  on  two  points  to  my  nurse 
and  to  the  nursery  tales.  It  has  taken  me  a 
long  time  to  find  out  that  the  modern  world  is 
wrong  and  my  nurse  was  right.  The  really 
curious  thing  was  this  :  that  modern  thought 
contradicted  this  basic  creed  of  my  boyhood  on 
its  two  most  essential  doctrines.  I  have  ex- 
plained that  the  fairy  tales  founded  in  me  two 
convictions  ;  first,  that  this  world  is  a  wild  and 
startling  place,  which  might  have  been  quite 
different,  but  which  is  quite  delightful ;  second, 
that  before  this  wildness  and  delight  one  may 
well  be  modest  and  submit  to  the  queerest 
limitations  of  so  queer  a  kindness.  But  I  found 
the  whole  modern  world  running  like  a  high 
tide  against  both  my  tendernesses  ;  and  the 
shock  of  that  collision  created  two  sudden  and 
spontaneous  sentiments,  which  I  have  had  ever 
since  and  which,  crude  as  they  were,  have  since 
hardened  into  convictions. 

First,  I  found  the  whole  modern  world  talking 
scientific  fatalism  ;  saying  that  everything  is  as 
it  must  always  have  been,  being  unfolded 
without  fault  from  the  beginning.     The  leaf  on 



the  tree  is  green  because  it  could  never  have 
been  anything  else.  Now,  the  fairy-tale  philo- 
sopher is  glad  that  the  leaf  is  green  precisely 
because  it  might  have  been  scarlet.  He  feels 
as  if  it  had  turned  green  an  instant  before  he 
looked  at  it.  He  is  pleased  that  snow  is  white 
on  the  strictly  reasonable  ground  that  it  might 
have  been  black.  Every  colour  has  in  it  a  bold 
quality  as  of  choice  ;  the  red  of  garden  roses  is 
not  only  decisive  but  dramatic,  like  suddenly 
spilt  blood.  He  feels  that  something  has  been 
done.  But  the  great  determinists  of  the  nineteenth 
century  were  strongly  against  this  native  feeling 
that  something  had  happened  an  instant  before. 
In  fact,  according  to  them,  nothing  ever  really 
had  happened  since  the  beginning  of  the  world. 
Nothing  ever  had  happened  since  existence  had 
happened  ;  and  even  about  the  date  of  that 
they  were  not  very  sure. 

The  modern  world  as  I  found  it  was  solid  for 
modern  Calvinism,  for  the  necessity  of  things 
being  as  they  are.  But  when  I  came  to  ask  them 
I  found  they  had  really  no  proof  of  this  un- 
avoidable repetition  in  things  except  the  fact 
that  the  things  were  repeated.  Now,  the  mere 
repetition  made  the  things  to  me  rather  more 
weird  than  more  rational.  It  was  as  if,  having 
seen  a  curiously  shaped  nose  in  the  street  and 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

dismissed  it  as  an  accident,  I  had  then  seen  six 
other  noses  of  the  same  astonishing  shape.  I 
should  have  fancied  for  a  moment  that  it  must 
be  some  local  secret  society.  So  one  elephant 
having  a  trunk  was  odd  ;  but  all  elephants 
having  trunks  looked  like  a  plot.  I  speak  here 
only  of  an  emotion,  and  of  an  emotion  at  once 
stubborn  and  subtle.  But  the  repetition  in 
Nature  seemed  sometimes  to  be  an  excited 
repetition,  like  that  of  an  angry  schoolmaster 
saying  the  same  thing  over  and  over  again. 
The  grass  seemed  signalling  to  me  with  all  its 
fingers  at  once ;  the  crowded  stars  seemed  bent 
upon  being  understood.  The  sun  would  make 
me  see  him  if  he  rose  a  thousand  times.  The 
recurrences  of  the  universe  rose  to  the  madden- 
ing rhythm  of  an  incantation,  and  I  began  to 
see  an  idea. 

All  the  towering  materialism  which  dominates 
the  modern  mind  rests  ultimately  upon  one 
assumption  ;  a  false  assumption.  It  is  supposed 
that  if  a  thing  goes  on  repeating  itself  it  is 
probably  dead;  a  piece  of  clockwork.  People 
feel  that  if  the  universe  was  personal  it  would 
vary  ;  if  the  sun  were  alive  it  would  dance. 
This  is  a  fallacy  even  in  relation  to  known  fact. 
For  the  variation  in  human  affairs  is  generally 
brought  into  them,  not  by  life,  but  by  death; 



by  the  dying  down  or  breaking  off  of  their 
strength  or  desire.  A  man  varies  his  move- 
ments because  of  some  slight  element  of  failure 
or  fatigue.  He  gets  into  an  omnibus  because 
he  is  tired  of  walking  ;  or  he  walks  because  he 
is  tired  of  sitting  still.  But  if  his  life  and  joy 
were  so  gigantic  that  he  never  tired  of  going  to 
Islington,  he  might  go  to  Islington  as  regularly 
as  the  Thames  goes  to  Sheerness.  The  very 
speed  and  ecstasy  of  his  life  would  have  the 
stillness  of  death.  The  sun  rises  every  morning. 
I  do  not  rise  every  morning  ;  but  the  variation 
is  due  not  to  my  activity,  but  to  my  inaction. 
Now,  to  put  the  matter  in  a  popular  phrase,  it 
might  be  true  that  the  sun  rises  regularly 
because  he  never  gets  tired  of  rising.  His 
routine  might  be  due,  not  to  a  lifelessness,  but 
to  a  rush  of  life.  The  thing  I  mean  can  be 
seen,  for  instance,  in  children,  when  they  find 
some  game  or  joke  that  they  specially  enjoy. 
A  child  kicks  his  legs  rhythmically  through 
excess,  not  absence,  of  life.  Because  children 
have  abounding  vitality,  because  they  are  in 
spirit  fierce  and  free,  therefore  they  want  things 
repeated  and  unchanged.  They  always  say, 
"  Do  it  again  "  ;  and  the  grown-up  person 
does  it  again  until  he  is  nearly  dead.  For 
grown-up    people   are    not    strong    enough    to 


The  Ethics  of  Elfiand 

exult  in  monotony.  But  perhaps  God  is  strong 
enough  to  exult  in  monotony.  It  is  possible 
that  God  says  every  morning,  "Do  it  again" 
to  the  sun  ;  and  every  evening,  "  Do  it  again  H 
to  the  moon.  It  may  not  be  automatic  necessity 
that  makes  all  daisies  alike  ;  it  may  be  that 
God  makes  every  daisy  separately,  but  has 
never  got  tired  of  making  them.  It  may  be 
that  He  has  the  eternal  appetite  of  infancy  ;  for 
we  have  sinned  and  grown  old,  and  our  Father 
is  younger  than  we.  The  repetition  in  Nature 
may  not  be  a  mere  recurrence  ;  it  may  be  a 
theatrical  encore.  Heaven  may  encore  the  bird 
who  laid  an  egg.  If  the  human  being  con- 
ceives and  brings  forth  a  human  child  instead 
of  bringing  forth  a  fish,  or  a  bat,  or  a  griffin, 
the  reason  may  not  be  that  we  are  fixed  in  an 
animal  fate  without  life  or  purpose.  It  may  be 
that  our  little  tragedy  has  touched  the  gods, 
that  they  admire  it  from  their  starry  galleries, 
and  that  at  the  end  of  every  human  drama  man 
is  called  again  and  again  before  the  curtain. 
Repetition  may  go  on  for  millions  of  years,  by 
mere  choice,  and  at  any  instant  it  may  stop. 
Man  may  stand  on  the  earth  generation  after 
generation,  and  yet  each  birth  be  his  positively 
last  appearance. 

This  was  my  first  conviction  ;  made  by  the 



shock  of  my  childish  emotions  meeting  the 
modern  creed  in  mid-career.  I  had  always 
vaguely  felt  facts  to  be  miracles  in  the  sense 
that  they  are  wonderful  :  now  I  began  to  think 
them  miracles  in  the  stricter  sense  that  they 
were  wilful.  I  mean  that  they  were,  or  might 
be,  repeated  exercises  of  some  will.  In  short, 
I  had  always  believed  that  the  world  involved 
magic  :  now  I  thought  that  perhaps  it  involved 
a  magician.  And  this  pointed  a  profound 
emotion  always  present  and  sub-conscious  ;  that 
this  world  of  ours  has  some  purpose  ;  and  if 
there  is  a  purpose,  there  is  a  person.  I  had 
always  felt  life  first  as  a  story  :  and  if  there  is 
a  story  there  is  a  story-teller. 

But  modern  thought  also  hit  my  second 
human  tradition.  It  went  against  the  fairy 
feeling  about  strict  limits  and  conditions. 
The  one  thing  it  loved  to  talk  about  was 
expansion  and  largeness.  Herbert  Spencer 
would  have  been  greatly  annoyed  if  any  one 
had  called  him  an  imperialist,  and  therefore  it 
is  highly  regrettable  that  nobody  did.  But  he 
was  an  imperialist  of  the  lowest  type.  He 
popularized  this  contemptible  notion  that  the 
size  of  the  solar  system  ought  to  over-awe  the 
spiritual  dogma  of  man.  Why  should  a  man 
surrender  his  dignity  to  the  solar  system  any 

1 08 

The  Whirs  of  Elfldnd 

more  than  to  a  whale  ?  If  mere  size  proves 
that  man  is  not  the  image  of  God,  then  a  whale 
may  be  the  image  of  God  ;  a  somewhat  formless 
image  ;  what  one  might  call  an  impressionist 
portrait.  It  is  quite  futile  to  argue  that  man  is 
small  compared  to  the  cosmos  ;  for  man  was 
always  small  compared  to  the  nearest  tree.  But 
Herbert  Spencer,  in  his  headlong  imperialism, 
would  insist  that  we  had  in  some  way  been 
conquered  and  annexed  by  the  astronomical 
universe.  He  spoke  about  men  and  their 
ideals  exactly  as  the  most  insolent  Unionist 
talks  about  the  Irish  and  their  ideals.  He 
turned  mankind  into  a  small  nationality.  And 
his  evil  influence  can  be  seen  even  in  the  most 
spirited  and  honourable  of  later  scientific 
authors  ;  notably  in  the  early  romances  of  Mr. 
H.  G.  Wells.  Many  moralists  have  in  an 
exaggerated  way  represented  the  earth  as 
wicked.  But  Mr.  Wells  and  his  school  made 
the  heavens  wicked.  We  should  lift  up  our 
eyes  to  the  stars  from  whence  would  come  our 

But  the  expansion  of  which  I  speak  was 
much  more  evil  than  all  this.  I  have  remarked 
that  the  materialist,  like  the  madman,  is  in 
prison  ;  in  the  prison  of  one  thought.  These 
people  seemed  to  think  it  singularly  inspiring 



to  keep  on  saying  that  the  prison  was  very 
large.  The  size  of  this  scientific  universe  gave 
one  no  novelty,  no  relief.  The  cosmos  went 
on  for  ever,  but  not  in  its  wildest  constellation 
could  there  be  anything  really  interesting ;  any- 
thing, for  instance,  such  as  forgiveness  or  free 
will.  The  grandeur  or  infinity  of  the  secret  of 
its  cosmos  added  nothing  to  it.  It  was  like 
telling  a  prisoner  in  Reading  gaol  that  he 
would  be  glad  to  hear  that  the  gaol  now 
covered  half  the  county.  The  warder  would 
have  nothing  to  show  the  man  except  more 
and  more  long  corridors  of  stone  lit  by  ghastly 
lights  and  empty  of  all  that  is  human.  So 
these  expanders  of  the  universe  had  nothing 
to  show  us  except  more  and  more  infinite 
corridors  of  space  lit  by  ghastly  suns  and  empty 
of  all  that  is  divine. 

In  fairyland  there  had  been  a  real  law  ;  a  law 
that  could  be  broken,  for  the  definition  of  a 
law  is  something  that  can  be  broken.  But  the 
machinery  of  this  cosmic  prison  was  something 
that  could  not  be  broken  ;  for  we  ourselves 
were  only  a  part  of  its  machinery.  We  were 
either  unable  to  do  things  or  we  were  destined 
to  do  them.  The  idea  of  the  mystical  condition 
quite  disappeared  ;  one  can  neither  have  the 
firmness  of  keeping  laws  nor  the  fun  of  breaking 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

them.  The  largeness  of  this  universe  had 
nothing  of  that  freshness  and  airy  outbreak 
which  we  have  praised  in  the  universe  of  the 
poet.  This  modern  universe  is  literally  an 
empire  ;  that  is,  it  is  vast,  but  it  is  not  free. 
One  went  into  larger  and  larger  windowless 
rooms,  rooms  big  with  Babylonian  perspective  ; 
but  one  never  found  the  smallest  window  or  a 
whisper  of  outer  air. 

Their  infernal  parallels  seemed  to  expand 
with  distance  ;  but  for  me  all  good  things  come 
to  a  point,  swords  for  instance.  So  finding  the 
boast  of  the  big  cosmos  so  unsatisfactory  to  my 
emotions  I  began  to  argue  about  it  a  little ;  and 
I  soon  found  that  the  whole  attitude  was  even 
shallower  than  could  have  been  expected. 
According  to  these  people  the  cosmos  was  one 
thing  since  it  had  one  unbroken  rule.  Only 
(they  would  say)  while  it  is  one  thing  it  is 
also  the  only  thing  there  is.  Why,  then,  should 
one  worry  particularly  to  call  it  large  ?  There 
is  nothing  to  compare  it  with.  It  would  be 
just  as  sensible  to  call  it  small.  A  man  may 
say,  "  I  like  this  vast  cosmos,  with  its  throng  of 
stars  and  its  crowd  of  varied  creatures."  But 
if  it  comes  to  that  why  should  not  a  man  say, 
"  I  like  this  cosy  little  cosmos,  with  its  decent 
number  of  stars  and  as  neat  a  provision  of  live 



stock  as  I  wish  to  see  "  ?  One  is  as  good  as  the 
other  ;  they  are  both  mere  sentiments.  It  is 
mere  sentiment  to  rejoice  that  the  sun  is  larger 
than  the  earth  ;  it  is  quite  as  sane  a  sentiment 
to  rejoice  that  the  sun  is  no  larger  than  it  is. 
A  man  chooses  to  have  an  emotion  about  the 
largeness  of  the  world  ;  why  should  he  not 
choose  to  have  an  emotion  about  its  smallness  ? 
It  happened  that  I  had  that  emotion.  When 
one  is  fond  of  anything  one  addresses  it  by 
diminutives,  even  if  it  is  an  elephant  or  a 
lifeguardsman.  The  reason  is,  that  anything, 
however  huge,  that  can  be  conceived  of  as  com- 
plete, can  be  conceived  of  as  small.  If  military 
moustaches  did  not  suggest  a  sword  or  tusks 
a  tail,  then  the  object  would  be  vast  because  it 
would  be  immeasurable.  But  the  moment  you 
can  imagine  a  guardsman  you  can  imagine  a 
small  guardsman.  The  moment  you  really  see 
an  elephant  you  can  call  it  "Tiny."  If  you 
can  make  a  statue  of  a  thing  you  can  make  a 
statuette  of  it.  These  people  professed  that 
the  universe  was  one  coherent  thing  ;  but  they 
were  not  fond  of  the  universe.  But  I  was 
frightfully  fond  of  the  universe  and  wanted  to 
address  it  by  a  diminutive.  I  often  did  so  ;  and 
it  never  seemed  to  mind.  Actually  and  in 
truth    I    did    feel    that    these    dim   dogmas  of 


The  Ethics  of  Elfiand 

vitality  were  better  expressed  by  calling  the 
world  small  than  by  calling  it  large.  For 
about  infinity  there  was  a  sort  of  carelessness 
which  was  the  reverse  of  the  fierce  and  pious 
care  which  I  felt  touching  the  pricelessness  and 
the  peril  of  life.  They  showed  only  a  dreary 
waste  ;  but  I  felt  a  sort  of  sacred  thrift.  For 
economy  is  far  more  romantic  than  extravagance. 
To  them  stars  were  an  unending  income  of 
halfpence  ;  but  I  felt  about  the  golden  sun  and 
the  silver  moon  as  a  schoolboy  feels  if  he  has 
one  sovereign  and  one  shilling. 

These  subconscious  convictions  are  best  hit 
off  by  the  colour  and  tone  of  certain  tales. 
Thus  I  have  said  that  stories  of  magic  alone 
can  express  my  sense  that  life  is  not  only  a 
pleasure  but  a  kind  of  eccentric  privilege.  I 
may  express  this  other  feeling  of  cosmic  cosiness 
by  allusion  to  another  book  always  read  in 
boyhood,  "  Robinson  Crusoe,"  which  I  read 
about  this  time,  and  which  owes  its  eternal  vivacity 
to  the  fact  that  it  celebrates  the  poetry  of  limits, 
nay,  even  the  wild  romance  of  prudence.  Crusoe 
is  a  man  on  a  small  rock  with  a  few  comforts  just 
snatched  from  the  sea  :  the  best  thing  in  the 
book  is  simply  the  list  of  things  saved  from  the 
wreck.  The  greatest  of  poems  is  an  inventory. 
Every     kitchen    tool    becomes    ideal    because 

113  e 


Crusoe  might  have  dropped  it  in  the  sea.  It  is 
a  good  exercise,  in  empty  or  ugly  hours  of  the 
day,  to  look  at  anything,  the  coal-scuttle  or  the 
book-case,  and  think  how  happy  one  could  be 
to  have  brought  it  out  of  the  sinking  ship  on 
to  the  solitary  island.  But  it  is  a  better  exercise 
still  to  remember  how  all  things  have  had  this 
hair-breadth  escape  :  everything  has  been  saved 
from  a  wreck.  Every  man  has  had  one  horrible 
adventure  :  as  a  hidden  untimely  birth  he  had 
not  been,  as  infants  that  never  see  the  light. 
Men  spoke  much  in  my  boyhood  of  restricted 
or  ruined  men  of  genius :  and  it  was  common 
to  say  that  many  a  man  was  a  Great  Might- 
Have-Been.  To  me  it  is  a  more  solid  and 
startling  fact  that  any  man  in  the  street  is  a 
Great  Might-Not- Have-Been. 

But  I  really  felt  (the  fancy  may  seem  foolish) 
as  if  all  the  order  and  number  of  things  were 
the  romantic  remnant  of  Crusoe's  ship.  That 
there  are  two  sexes  and  one  sun,  was  like  the 
fact  that  there  were  two  guns  and  one  axe.  It 
was  poignantly  urgent  that  none  should  be  lost ; 
but  somehow,  it  was  rather  fun  that  none  could 
be  added.  The  trees  and  the  planets  seemed 
like  things  saved  from  the  wreck  :  and  when  I 
saw  the  Matterhorn  I  was  glad  that  it  had  not 
been    overlooked    in    the    confusion.       I    felt 


The  Ethics  of  Elfland 

economical  about  the  stars  as  if  they  were 
sapphires  (they  are  called  so  in  Milton's  Eden)  : 
I  hoarded  the  hills.  For  the  universe  is  a  single 
jewel,  and  while  it  is  a  natural  cant  to  talk  of  a 
jewel  as  peerless  and  priceless,  of  this  jewel  it  is 
literally  true.  This  cosmos  is  indeed  without 
peer  and  without  price  :  for  there  cannot  be 
another  one. 

Thus  ends,  in  unavoidable  inadequacy,  the 
attempt  to  utter  the  unutterable  things.  These 
are  my  ultimate  attitudes  towards  life  ;  the  soils 
for  the  seeds  of  doctrine.  These  in  some  dark 
way  I  thought  before  I  could  write,  and  felt 
before  I  could  think  :  that  we  may  proceed  more 
easily  afterwards,  I  will  roughly  recapitulate 
them  now.  I  felt  in  my  bones ;  first,  that  this 
world  does  not  explain  itself.  It  may  be  a 
miracle  with  a  supernatural  explanation  ;  it  may 
be  a  conjuring  trick,  with  a  natural  explanation. 
But  the  explanation  of  the  conjuring  trick,  if  it 
is  to  satisfy  me,  will  have  to  be  better  than  the 
natural  explanations  I  have  heard.  The  thing 
is  magic,  true  or  false.  Second,  I  came  to  feel 
as  if  magic  must  have  a  meaning,  and  meaning 
must  have  some  one  to  mean  it.  There  was 
something  personal  in  the  world,  as  in  a  work 
of  art  ;  whatever  it  meant  it  meant  violently. 
Third,  I  thought  .this  purpose  beautiful  in  its 



old  design,  in  spite  of  its  defects,  such  as 
dragons.  Fourth,  that  the  proper  form  of 
thanks  to  it  is  some  form  of  humility  and 
restraint  :  we  should  thank  God  for  beer  and 
Burgundy  by  not  drinking  too  much  of  them. 
We  owed,  also,  an  obedience  to  whatever  made 
us.  And  last,  and  strangest,  there  had  come 
into  my  mind  a  vague  and  vast  impression  that 
in  some  way  all  good  was  a  remnant  to  be 
stored  and  held  sacred  out  of  some  primordial 
ruin.  Man  had  saved  his  good  as  Crusoe  saved 
hi?  goods  :  he  had  saved  them  from  a  wreck. 
All  this  I  felt  and  the  age  gave  me  no  en- 
couragement to  feel  it.  And  all  this  time  I 
had  not  even  thought  of  Christian  theology. 


Chapter  V  —  The  Flag  of  the    World 

WHEN  I  was  a  boy  there  were  two 
curious  men  running  about  who 
were  called  the  optimist  and  the 
pessimist.  I  constantly  used  the 
words  myself,  but  I  cheerfully  confess  that  I 
never  had  any  very  special  idea  of  what  they 
meant.  The  only  thing  which  might  be  con- 
sidered evident  was  that  they  could  not  mean 
what  they  said;  for  the  ordinary  verbal  explana- 
tion was  that  the  optimist  thought  this  world  as 
good  as  it  could  be,  while  the  pessimist  thought 
it  as  bad  as  it  could  be.  Both  these  statements 
being  obviously  raving  nonsense,  one  had  to 
cast  about  for  other  explanations.  An  optimist 
could  not  mean  a  man  who  thought  everything 
right  and  nothing  wrong.  For  that  is  meaning- 
less ;  it  is  like  calling  everything  right  and 
nothing  left.  Upon  the  whole,  I  came  to  the 
conclusion  that  the  optimist  thought  everything 
good  except  the  pessimist,  and  that  the  pessimist 
thought  everything  bad,  except  himself.  It 
would  be  unfair  to  omit  altogether  from  the  list 
the  mysterious  but  suggestive  definition  said  to 
have  been  given  by  a  little  girl,  "  An  optimist  is 
a  man  who  looks  after  your  eyes,  and  a  pessimist 



is  a  man  who  looks  after  your  feet"  I  am  not 
sure  that  this  is  not  the  best  definition  of  all. 
There  is  even  a  sort  of  allegorical  truth  in  it. 
For  there  might,  perhaps,  be  a  profitable  dis- 
tinction drawn  between  that  more  dreary  thinker 
who  thinks  merely  of  our  contact  with  the  earth 
from  moment  to  moment,  and  that  happier 
thinker  who  considers  rather  our  primary  power 
of  vision  and  of  choice  of  road. 

But  this  is  a  deep  mistake  in  this  alterna- 
tive of  the  optimist  and  the  pessimist.  The 
assumption  of  it  is  that  a  man  criticises  this 
world  as  if  he  were  house-hunting,  as  if  he  were 
being  shown  over  a  new  suite  of  apartments.  If 
a  man  came  to  this  world  from  some  other  world 
in  full  possession  of  his  powers  he  might  discuss 
whether  the  advantage  of  midsummer  woods 
made  up  for  the  disadvantage  of  mad  dogs,  just 
as  a  man  looking  for  lodgings  might  balance  the 
presence  of  a  telephone  against  the  absence  of  a 
sea  view.  But  no  man  is  in  that  position.  A 
man  belongs  to  this  world  before  he  begins  to 
ask  if  it  is  nice  to  belong  to  it.  He  has  fought 
for  the  flag,  and  often  won  heroic  victories  for 
the  flag  long  before  he  has  ever  enlisted.  To 
put  shortly  what  seems  the  essential  matter, 
he  has  a  loyalty  long  before  he  has  any 


The   Flag  of  the    World 

In  the  last  chapter  it  has  been  said  that  the 
primary  feeling  that  this  world  is  strange  and 
yet  attractive  is  best  expressed  in  fairy  talcs. 
The  reader  may,  if  he  likes,  put  down  the  next 
stage  to  that  bellicose  and  even  jingo  literature 
which  commonly  comes  next  in  the  history  of  a 
boy.  We  all  owe  much  sound  morality  to  the 
penny  dreadfuls.  Whatever  the  reason,  it 
seemed  and  still  seems  to  me  that  our  attitude 
towards  life  can  be  better  expressed  in  terms  of  a 
kind  of  military  loyalty  than  in  terms  of  criticism 
and  approval.  My  acceptance  of  the  universe 
is  not  optimism,  it  is  more  like  patriotism. 
It  is  a  matter  of  primary  loyalty.  The  world  is 
not  a  lodging-house  at  Brighton,  which  we  are 
to  leave  because  it  is  miserable.  It  is  the 
fortress  of  our  family,  with  the  flag  flying  on 
the  turret,  and  the  more  miserable  it  is  the  less 
we  should  leave  it.  The  point  is  not  that  this 
world  is  too  sad  to  love  or  too  glad  not  to 
love  ;  the  point  is  that  when  you  do  love  a 
thing,  its  gladness  is  a  reason  for  loving  it,  and 
its  sadness  a  reason  for  loving  it  more.  All 
optimistic  thoughts  about  England  and  all 
pessimistic  thoughts  about  her  are  alike  reasons 
for  the  English  patriot.  Similarly,  optimism 
and  pessimism  are  alike  arguments  for  the 
cosmic  patriot. 



Let  us  suppose  we  are  confronted  with  a 
desperate  thing— say  Pimlico.  If  we  think 
what  is  really  best  for  Pimlico  we  shall  find 
the  thread  of  thought  leads  to  the  throne  of 
the  mystic  and  the  arbitary.  It  is  not  enough 
for  a  man  to  disapprove  of  Pimlico  :  in  that 
case  he  will  merely  cut  his  throat  or  move  to 
Chelsea.  Nor,  certainly,  is  it  enough  for  a 
man  to  approve  of  Pimlico  :  for  then  it  will 
remain  Pimlico,  which  would  be  awful.  The 
only  way  out  of  it  seems  to  be  for  somebody  to 
love  Pimlico  :  to  love  it  with  a  transcendental 
tie  and  without  any  earthly  reason.  If  there 
arose  a  man  who  loved  Pimlico,  then  Pimlico 
would  rise  into  ivory  towers  and  golden 
pinnacles  ;  Pimlico  would  attire  herself  as  a 
woman  does  when  she  is  loved.  For  decora- 
tion is  not  given  to  hide  horrible  things  ;  but 
to  decorate  things  already  adorable.  A  mother 
does  not  give  her  child  a  blue  bow  because  he 
is  so  ugly  without  it.  A  lover  does  not  give 
a  girl  a  necklace  to  hide  her  neck.  If  men 
loved  Pimlico  as  mothers  love  children,  arbi- 
tarily,  because  it  is  theirs,  Pimlico  in  a  year  or 
two  might  be  fairer  than  Florence.  Some 
readers  will  say  that  this  is  a  mere  fantasy.  I 
answer  that  this  is  the  actual  history  of  man- 
kind.    This,  as  a  fact,  is  how  cities  did  grow 

1 20 

The  Flag  of  the    Worhl 

great.  Go  back  to  the  darkest  roots  of  civilisa- 
tion and  you  will  find  them  knotted  round  some 
sacred  stone  or  encircling  some  sacred  well. 
People  first  paid  honour  to  a  spot  and  after- 
wards gained  glory  for  it.  Men  did  not  love 
Rome  because  she  was  great.  She  was  great 
because  they  had  loved  her. 

The  eighteenth-century  theories  of  the  social 
contract  have  been  exposed  to  much  clumsy 
criticism  in  our  time  ;  in  so  far  as  they  meant 
that  there  is  at  the  back  of  all  historic  govern- 
ment an  idea  of  content  and  co-operation,  they 
were  demonstrably  right.  But  they  really  were 
wrong  in  so  far  as  they  suggested  that  men  had 
ever  aimed  at  order  or  ethics  directly  by  a 
conscious  exchange  of  interests.  Morality  did 
not  begin  by  one  man  saying  to  another,  "  I 
will  not  hit  you  if  you  do  not  hit  me  "  ;  there 
is  no  trace  of  such  a  transaction.  There  is  a 
trace  of  both  men  having  said,  "We  must  not 
hit  each  other  in  the  holy  place."  They  gained 
their  morality  by  guarding  their  religion.  They 
did  not  cultivate  courage.  They  fought  for 
the  shrine,  and  found  they  had  become  courag- 
eous. They  did  not  cultivate  cleanliness.  They 
purified  themselves  for  the  altar,  and  found 
that  they  were  clean.  The  history  of  the  Jews 
is  the   only    early    document    known   to   most 

121  E  2 


Englishmen,  and  the  facts  can  be  judged  suffi- 
ciently from  that.  The  Ten  Commandments 
which  have  been  found  substantially  common 
to  mankind  were  merely  military  commands  ; 
a  code  of  regimental  orders,  issued  to  protect  a 
certain  ark  across  a  certain  desert.  Anarchy 
was  evil  because  it  endangered  the  sanctity. 
And  only  when  they  made  a  holy  day  for  God 
did  they  find  they  had  made  a  holiday  for 

If  it  be  granted  that  this  primary  devotion  to 
a  place  or  thing  is  a  source  of  creative  energy, 
we  can  pass  on  to  a  very  peculiar  fact.  Let  us 
reiterate  for  an  instant  that  the  only  right 
optimism  is  a  sort  of  universal  patriotism. 
What  is  the  matter  with  the  pessimist  ?  I  think 
it  can  be  stated  by  saying  that  he  is  the  cosmic 
anti-patriot.  And  what  is  the  matter  with  the 
anti-patriot  ?  I  think  it  can  be  stated,  without 
undue  bitterness,  by  saying  that  he  is  the  candid 
friend.  And  what  is  the  matter  with  the  candid 
friend  ?  There  we  strike  the  rock  of  real  life 
and  immutable  human  nature. 

I  venture  to  say  that  what  is  bad  in  the  candid 
friend  is  simply  that  he  is  not  candid.  He  is 
keeping  something  back — his  own  gloomy 
pleasure  in  saying  unpleasant  things.  He  has 
a    secret  desire    to  hurt,  not  merely  to  help. 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

This  is  certainly,  I  think,  what  makes  a  certain 
sort  of  anti-patriot  irritating  to  healthy  citizens. 
I  do  not  speak  (of  course)  of  the  anti-patriotism 
which  only  irritates  feverish  stockbrokers  and 
gushing  actresses  ;  that  is  only  patriotism  speak- 
ing plainly.  A  man  who  says  that  no  patriot 
should  attack  the  Boer  War  until  it  is  over  is 
not  worth  answering  intelligently  ;  he  is  saying 
that  no  good  son  should  warn  his  mother  off  a 
cliff  until  she  has  fallen  over  it.  But  there  is 
an  anti-patriot  who  honestly  angers  honest 
men,  and  the  explanation  of  him  is,  I  think, 
what  I  have  suggested  :  he  is  the  uncandid 
candid  friend  ;  the  man  who  says,  u  I  am  sorry 
to  say  we  are  ruined,"  and  is  not  sorry  at  all. 
And  he  may  be  said,  without  rhetoric,  to  be  a 
traitor;  for  he  is  using  that  ugly  knowledge 
which  was  allowed  him  to  strengthen  the  army, 
to  discourage  people  from  joining  it.  Because 
he  is  allowed  to  be  pessimistic  as  a  military 
adviser  he  is  being  pessimistic  as  a  recruiting 
sergeant.  Just  in  the  same  way  the  pessimist 
(who  is  the  cosmic  anti-patriot)  uses  the  free- 
dom that  life  allows  to  her  counsellors  to  lure 
away  the  people  from  her  flag.  Granted  that 
he  states  only  facts,  it  is  still  essential  to  know 
what  are  his  emotions,  what  is  his  motive.  It 
may  be  that  twelve  hundred  men  in  Tottenham 



are  down  with  smallpox  ;  but  we  want  to  know 
whether  this  is  stated  by  some  great  philosopher 
who  wants  to  curse  the  gods,  or  only  by  some 
common  clergyman  who  wants  to  help  the 

The  evil  of  the  pessimist  is,  then,  not  that  he 
chastises  gods  and  men,  but  that  he  does  not 
love  what  he  chastises — he  has  not  this  primary 
and  supernatural  loyalty  to  things.  What  is  the 
evil  of  the  man  commonly  called  an  optimist  ? 
Obviously,  it  is  felt  that  the  optimist,  wishing 
to  defend  the  honour  of  this  world,  will  defend 
the  indefensible.  He  is  the  jingo  of  the 
universe  ;  he  will  say,  "  My  cosmos,  right  or 
wrong."  He  will  be  less  inclined  to  the  reform 
of  things  ;  more  inclined  to  a  sort  of  front- 
bench  official  answer  to  all  attacks,  soothing 
every  one  with  assurances.  He  will  not  wash 
the  world,  but  whitewash  the  world.  All  this 
(which  is  true  of  a  type  of  optimist)  leads  us  to 
the  one  really  interesting  point  of  psychology, 
which  could  not  be  explained  without  it. 

We  say  there  must  be  a  primal  loyalty  to 
life  :  the  only  question  is,  shall  it  be  a  natural 
or  a  supernatural  loyalty  ?  If  you  like  to  put 
it  so,  shall  it  be  a  reasonable  or  an  unreasonable 
loyalty  ?  Now,  the  extraordinary  thing  is  that 
the  bad  optimism  (the  whitewashing,  the  weak 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

defence  of  everything)  comes  in  with  the  reason- 
able optimism.  Rational  optimism  leads  to 
stagnation  :  it  is  irrational  optimism  that  leads 
to  reform.  Let  me  explain  by  using  once  more 
the  parallel  of  patriotism.  The  man  who  is 
most  likely  to  ruin  the  place  he  loves  is  exactly 
the  man  who  loves  it  with  a  reason.  The  man 
who  will  improve  the  place  is  the  man  who 
loves  it  without  a  reason.  If  a  man  loves  some 
feature  of  Pimlico  (which  seems  unlikely),  he 
may  find  himself  defending  that  feature  against 
Pimlico  itself.  But  if  he  simply  loves  Pimlico 
itself,  he  may  lay  it  waste  and  turn  it  into  the 
New  Jerusalem.  I  do  not  deny  that  reform 
may  be  excessive  ;  I  only  say  that  it  is  the 
mystic  patriot  who  reforms.  Mere  jingo  self- 
contentment  is  commonest  among  those  who 
have  some  pedantic  reason  for  their  patriotism. 
The  worst  jingoes  do  not  love  England,  but  a 
theory  of  England.  If  we  love  England  for 
being  an  empire,  we  may  overrate  the  success 
with  which  we  rule  the  Hindoos.  But  if  we 
love  it  only  for  being  a  nation,  we  can  face  all 
events  :  for  it  would  be  a  nation  even  if  the 
Hindoos  ruled  us.  Thus  also  only  those  will 
permit  their  patriotism  to  falsify  history  whose 
patriotism  depends  on  history.  A  man  who 
loves  England  for  being  English  will  not  mind 



how  she  arose.  But  a  man  who  loves  England 
for  being  Anglo-Saxon  may  go  against  all  facts 
for  his  fancy.  He  may  end  (like  Carlyle  and 
Freeman)  by  maintaining  that  the  Norman 
Conquest  was  a  Saxon  Conquest.  He  may 
end  in  utter  unreason — because  he  has  a 
reason.  A  man  who  loves  France  for  being 
military  will  palliate  the  army  of  1870.  But  a 
man  who  loves  France  for  being  France  will 
improve  the  army  of  1870.  This  is  exactly 
what  the  French  have  done,  and  France  is  a 
good  instance  of  the  working  paradox.  No- 
where else  is  patriotism  more  purely  abstract 
and  arbitrary  ;  and  nowhere  else  is  reform 
more  drastic  and  sweeping.  The  more  tran- 
scendental is  your  patriotism,  the  more  practical 
are  your  politics. 

Perhaps  the  most  everyday  instance  of  this 
point  is  in  the  case  of  women  ;  and  their 
strange  and  strong  loyalty.  Some  stupid 
people  started  the  idea  that  because  women 
obviously  back  up  their  own  people  through 
everything,  therefore  women  are  blind  and  do 
not  see  anything.  They  can  hardly  have 
known  any  women.  The  same  women  who 
are  ready  to  defend  their  men  through  thick 
and  thin  are  (in  their  personal  intercourse  with 
the    man)    almost    morbidly    lucid    about   the 


The  Flag  of  the    World 

thinness  of  his  excuses  or  the  thickness  of  his 
head.  A  man's  friend  likes  him  but  leaves  him  as 
he  is  :  his  wife  loves  him  and  is  always  trying 
to  turn  him  into  somebody  else.  Women  who 
are  utter  mystics  in  their  creed  are  utter  cynics 
in  their  criticism.  Thackeray  expressed  this 
well  when  he  made  Pendennis'  mother,  who 
worshipped  her  son  as  a  god,  yet  assume  that 
he  would  go  wrong  as  a  man.  She  underrated 
his  virtue,  though  she  overrated  his  value.  The 
devotee  is  entirely  free  to  criticise  ;  the  fanatic 
can  safely  be  a  sceptic.  Love  is  not  blind  ;  that 
is  the  last  thing  that  it  is.  Love  is  bound  ;  and 
the  more  it  is  bound  the  less  it  is  blind. 

This  at  least  had  come  to  be  my  position 
about  all  that  was  called  optimism,  pessimism, 
and  improvement.  Before  any  cosmic  act  of 
reform  we  must  have  a  cosmic  oath  of  allegiance. 
A  man  must  be  interested  in  life,  then  he  could 
be  disinterested  in  his  views  of  it.  "  My  son 
give  me  thy  heart  "  ;  the  heart  must  be  fixed 
on  the  right  thing  :  the  moment  we  have  a 
fixed  heart  we  have  a  free  hand.  I  must  pause 
to  anticipate  an  obvious  criticism.  It  will  be 
said  that  a  rational  person  accepts  the  world  as 
mixed  of  good  and  evil  with  a  decent  satis- 
faction and  a  decent  endurance.  But  this  is 
exactly    the    attitude  which   I   maintain   to   be 



defective.  It  is,  I  know,  very  common  in  this 
age  ;  it  was  perfectly  put  in  those  quiet  lines 
of  Matthew  Arnold  which  are  more  piercingly 
blasphemous  than  the  shrieks  of  Schopen- 

"  Enough  we  live  : — and  if  a  life, 
With  large  results  so  little  rife, 
Though  bearable,  seem  hardly  worth 
This  pomp  of  worlds,  this  pain  of  birth.'* 

I  know  this  feeling  fills  our  epoch,  and  I 
think  it  freezes  our  epoch.  For  our  Titanic 
purposes  of  faith  and  revolution,  what  we  need 
is  not  the  cold  acceptance  of  the  world  as  a 
compromise,  but  some  way  in  which  we  can 
heartily  hate  and  heartily  love  it.  We  do  not 
want  joy  and  anger  to  neutralise  each  other  and 
produce  a  surly  contentment ;  we  want  a  fiercer 
delight  and  a  fiercer  discontent.  We  have  to 
feel  the  universe  at  once  as  an  ogre's  castle,  to 
be  stormed,  and  yet  as  our  own  cottage,  to 
which  we  can  return  at  evening. 

No  one  doubts  that  an  ordinary  man  can 
get  on  with  this  world  :  but  we  demand  not 
strength  enough  to  get  on  with  it,  but  strength 
enough  to  get  it  on.  Can  he  hate  if  enough 
to  change  it,  and  yet  love  it  enough  to  think  it 
worth  changing  ?  Can  he  look  up  at  its  colossal 
good  without  once  feeling  acquiescence  ?     Can 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

he  look  up  at  its  colossal  evil  without  once 
feeling  despair  ?  Can  he,  in  short,  be  at  once 
not  only  a  pessimist  and  an  optimist,  but  a 
fanatical  pessimist  and  a  fanatical  optimist  ?  Is 
he  enough  of  a  pagan  to  die  for  the  world,  and 
enough  of  a  Christian  to  die  to  it  ?  In  this 
combination,  I  maintain,  it  is  the  rational 
optimist  who  fails,  the  irrational  optimist  who 
succeeds.  He  is  ready  to  smash  the  whole 
universe  for  the  sake  of  itself. 

I  put  these  things  not  in  their  mature  logical 
sequence,  but  as  they  came  :  and  this  view  was 
cleared  and  sharpened  by  an  accident  of  the 
time.  Under  the  lengthening  shadow  of  Ibsen, 
an  argument  arose  whether  it  was  not  a  very 
nice  thing  to  murder  one's  self.  Grave  moderns 
told  us  that  we  must  not  even  say  "poor 
fellow,"  of  a  man  who  had  blown  his  brains 
out,  since  he  was  an  enviable  person,  and  had 
only  blown  them  out  because  of  their  excep- 
tional excellence.  Mr.  William  Archer  even 
suggested  that  in  the  golden  age  there  would 
be  penny-in-the-slot  machines,  by  which  a  man 
could  kill  himself  for  a  penny.  In  all  this  I 
found  myself  utterly  hostile  to  many  who  called 
themselves  liberal  and  humane.  Not  only  is 
suicide  a  sin,  it  is  the  sin.  It  is  the  ultimate 
and  absolute  evil,  the  refusal  to  take  an  interest 



in  existence  ;  the  refusal  to  take  the  oath  of 
loyalty  to  life.  The  man  who  kills  a  man,  kills 
a  man.  The  man  who  kills  himself,  kills  all 
men  ;  as  far  as  he  is  concerned  he  wipes  out 
the  world.  His  act  is  worse  (symbolically 
considered)  than  any  rape  or  dynamite  outrage. 
For  it  destroys  all  buildings  :  it  insults  all 
women.  The  thief  is  satisfied  with  diamonds  ; 
but  the  suicide  is  not :  that  is  his  crime.  He 
cannot  be  bribed,  even  by  the  blazing  stones  of 
the  Celestial  City.  The  thief  compliments  the 
things  he  steals,  if  not  the  owner  of  them.  But 
the  suicide  insults  everything  on  earth  by  not 
stealing  it.  He  defiles  every  flower  by  refusing 
to  live  for  its  sake.  There  is  not  a  tiny  creature 
in  the  cosmos  at  whom  his  death  is  not  a 
sneer.  When  a  man  hangs  himself  on  a  tree, 
the  leaves  might  fall  off  in  anger  and  the  birds 
fly  away  in  fury :  for  each  has  received  a 
personal  affront.  Of  course  there  may  be 
pathetic  emotional  excuses  for  the  act.  There 
often  are  for  rape,  and  there  almost  always  are 
for  dynamite.  But  if  it  comes  to  clear  ideas 
and  the  intelligent  meaning  of  things,  then 
there  is  much  more  rational  and  philosophic 
truth  in  the  burial  at  the  cross-roads  and  the 
stake  driven  through  the  body,  than  in  Mr. 
Archer's   suicidal   automatic   machines.     There 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

is  a  meaning  in  burying  the  suicide  apart.  The 
man's  crime  is  different  from  other  crimes — for 
it  makes  even  crimes  impossible. 

About  the  same  time  I  read  a  solemn 
flippancy  by  some  free  thinker  :  he  said  that  a 
suicide  was  only  the  same  as  a  martyr.  The 
open  fallacy  of  this  helped  to  clear  the  question. 
Obviously  a  suicide  is  the  opposite  of  a  martyr. 
A  martyr  is  a  man  who  cares  so  much  for 
something  outside  him,  that  he  forgets  his  own 
personal  life.  A  suicide  is  a  man  who  cares  so 
little  for  anything  outside  him,  that  he  wants 
to  see  the  last  of  everything.  One  wants 
something  to  begin  :  the  other  wants  everything 
to  end.  In  other  words,  the  martyr  is  noble, 
exactly  because  (however  he  renounces  the 
world  or  execrates  all  humanity)  he  confesses 
this  ultimate  link  with  life  ;  he  sets  his  heart 
outside  himself:  he  dies  that  something  may 
live.  The  suicide  is  ignoble  because  he  has 
not  this  link  with  being :  he  is  a  mere  destroyer ; 
spiritually,  he  destroys  the  universe.  And  then 
I  remembered  the  stake  and  the  cross-roads, 
and  the  queer  fact  that  Christianity  had  shown 
this  weird  harshness  to  the  suicide.  For 
Christianity  had  shown  a  wild  encouragement 
of  the  martyr.  Historic  Christianity  was 
accused,  not  entirely  without  reason,  of  carrying 



martyrdom  and  asceticism  to  a  point,  desolate 
and  pessimistic.  The  early  Christian  martyrs 
talked  of  death  with  a  horrible  happiness. 
They  blasphemed  the  beautiful  duties  of  the 
body  :  they  smelt  the  grave  afar  off  like  a  field 
of  flowers.  All  this  has  seemed  to  many  the 
very  poetry  of  pessimism.  Yet  there  is  the 
stake  at  the  cross-roads  to  show  what  Christi- 
anity thought  of  the  pessimist. 

This  was  the  first  of  the  long  train  of 
enigmas  with  which  Christianity  entered  the 
discussion.  And  there  went  with  it  a  pecu- 
liarity of  which  I  shall  have  to  speak  more 
markedly,  as  a  note  of  all  Christian  notions, 
but  which  distinctly  began  in  this  one.  The 
Christian  attitude  to  the  martyr  and  the  suicide 
was  not  what  is  so  often  affirmed  in  modern 
morals.  It  was  not  a  matter  of  degree.  It  was 
not  that  a  line  must  be  drawn  somewhere,  and 
that  the  self-slayer  in  exaltation  fell  within  the 
line,  the  self-slayer  in  sadness  just  beyond  it. 
The  Christian  feeling  evidently  was  not  merely 
that  the  suicide  was  carrying  martyrdom  too 
far.  The  Christian  feeling  was  furiously  for 
one  and  furiously  against  the  other  :  these  two 
things  that  looked  so  much  alike  were  at  oppo- 
site ends  of  heaven  and  hell.  One  man  flung 
away  his  life  ;  he  was  so  good  that  his  dry  bones 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

could  heal  cities  in  pestilence.  Another  man 
flung  away  life  ;  he  was  so  bad  that  his  bones 
would  pollute  his  brethren's.  I  am  not  saying 
this  fierceness  was  right  ;  but  why  was  it  so 
fierce  ? 

Here  it  was  that  I  first  found  that  my 
wandering  feet  were  in  some  beaten  track. 
Christianity  had  also  felt  this  opposition  of  the 
martyr  to  the  suicide  :  had  it  perhaps  felt  it  for 
the  same  reason  ?  Had  Christianity  felt  what 
I  felt,  but  could  not  (and  cannot)  express — this 
need  for  a  first  loyalty  to  things,  and  then  for  a 
ruinous  reform  of  things  ?  Then  I  remem- 
bered that  it  was  actually  the  charge  against 
Christianity  that  it  combined  these  two  things 
which  I  was  wildly  trying  to  combine.  Christi- 
anity was  accused,  at  one  and  the  same  time,  of 
being  too  optimistic  about  the  universe  and  of 
being  too  pessimistic  about  the  world.  The 
coincidence  made  me  suddenly  stand  still. 

An  imbecile  habit  has  arisen  in  modern 
controversy  of  saying  that  such  and  such  a  creed 
can  be  held  in  one  age  but  cannot  be  held  in 
another.  Some  dogma,  we  are  told,  was  credible 
in  the  twelfth  century,  but  is  not  credible  in 
the  twentieth.  You  might  as  well  say  that  a 
certain  philosophy  can  be  believed  on  Mondays, 
but    cannot    be    believed    on  Tuesdays.     You 



might  as  well  say  of  a  view  of  the  cosmos  that 
it  was  suitable  to  half-past  three,  but  not  suit- 
able to  half-past  four.  What  a  man  can  believe 
depends  upon  his  philosophy,  not  upon  the 
clock  or  the  century.  If  a  man  believes  in 
unalterable  natural  law,  he  cannot  believe  in 
any  miracle  in  any  age.  If  a  man  believes 
in  a  will  behind  law,  he  can  believe  in  any 
miracle  in  any  age.  Suppose,  for  the  sake  of 
argument,  we  are  concerned  with  a  case  of 
thaumaturgic  healing.  A  materialist  of  the 
twelfth  century  could  not  believe  it  any  more 
than  a  materialist  of  the  twentieth  century. 
But  a  Christian  Scientist  of  the  twentieth 
century  can  believe  it  as  much  as  a  Christian 
of  the  twelfth  century.  It  is  simply  a 
matter  of  a  man's  theory  of  things.  There- 
fore in  dealing  with  any  historical  answer,  the 
point  is  not  whether  it  was  given  in  our  time, 
but  whether  it  was  given  in  answer  to  our 
question.  And  the  more  I  thought  about  when 
and  how  Christianity  had  come  into  the  world, 
the  more  I  felt  that  it  had  actually  come  to 
answer  this  question. 

It  is  commonly  the  loose  and  latitudinarian 
Christians  who  pay  quite  indefensible  compli- 
ments to  Christianity.  They  talk  as  if  there  had 
never  been  any  piety  or  pity  until  Christianity 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

came,  a  point  on  which  any  mediaeval  would 
have  been  eager  to  correct  them.  They  re- 
present that  the  remarkable  thing  about 
Christianity  was  that  it  was  the  first  to  preach 
simplicity  or  self-restraint,  or  inwardness  and 
sincerity.  They  will  think  me  very  narrow 
(whatever  that  means)  if  I  say  that  the  remark- 
able thing  about  Christianity  was  that  it  was  the 
first  to  preach  Christianity.  Its  peculiarity  was 
that  it  was  peculiar,  and  simplicity  and  sincerity 
are  not  peculiar,  but  obvious  ideals  for  all  man- 
kind. Christianity  was  the  answer  to  a  riddle, 
not  the  last  truism  uttered  after  a  long  talk. 
Only  the  other  day  I  saw  in  an  excellent  weekly 
paper  of  Puritan  tone  this  remark,  that 
Christianity  when  stripped  of  its  armour  of 
dogma  (as  who  should  speak  of  a  man  stripped 
of  his  armour  of  bones),  turned  out  to  be 
nothing  but  the  Quaker  doctrine  of  the  Inner 
Light.  Now,  if  I  were  to  say  that  Christianity 
came  into  the  world  specially  to  destroy  the 
doctrine  of  the  Inner  Light,  that  would  be  an 
exaggeration.  But  it  would  be  very  much 
nearer  to  the  truth.  The  last  Stoics,  like 
Marcus  Aurelius,  were  exactly  the  people 
who  did  believe  in  the  Inner  Light.  Their 
dignity,  their  weariness,  their  sad  external  care 
for    others,    their    incurable    internal    care    for 



themselves,  were  all  due  to  the  Inner  Light, 
and  existed  only  by  that  dismal  illumination. 
Notice  that  Marcus  Aurelius  insists,  as  such 
introspective  moralists  always  do,  upon  small 
things  done  or  undone  ;  it  is  because  he  has 
not  hate  or  love  enough  to  make  a  moral 
revolution.  He  gets  up  early  in  the  morning, 
just  as  our  own  aristocrats  living  the  Simple 
Life  get  up  early  in  the  morning  ;  because  such 
altruism  is  much  easier  than  stopping  the  games 
of  the  amphitheatre  or  giving  the  English 
people  back  their  land.  Marcus  Aurelius  is  the 
most  intolerable  of  human  types.  He  is  an 
unselfish  egoist.  An  unselfish  egoist  is  a  man 
who  has  pride  without  the  excuse  of  passion. 
Of  all  conceivable  forms  of  enlightenment  the 
worst  is  what  these  people  call  the  Inner  Light. 
Of  all  horrible  religions  the  most  horrible  is  the 
worship  of  the  god  within.  Any  one  who  knows 
any  body  knows  how  it  would  work  ;  any  one 
who  knows  any  one  from  the  Higher  Thought 
Centre  knows  how  it  does  work.  That  Jones 
shall  worship  the  god  within  him  turns  out 
ultimately  to  mean  that  Jones  shall  worship 
Jones.  Let  Jones  worship  the  sun  or  moon, 
anything  rather  than  the  Inner  Light  ;  let  Jones 
worship  cats  or  crocodiles,  if  he  can  find  any  in 
his  street,  but  not  the  god  within.     Christianity 


The  Flag  of  the    World 

came  into  the  world  firstly  in  order  to  assert 
with  violence  that  a  man  had  not  only  to  look 
inwards,  but  to  look  outwards,  to  behold  with 
astonishment  and  enthusiasm  a  divine  company 
and  a  divine  captain.  The  only  fun  of  being  a 
Christian  was  that  a  man  was  not  left  alone  with 
the  Inner  Light,  but  definitely  recognised  an 
outer  light,  fair  as  the  sun,  clear  as  the  moon, 
terrible  as  an  army  with  banners. 

All  the  same,  it  will  be  as  well  if  Jones  does 
not  worship  the  sun  and  moon.  If  he  does, 
there  is  a  tendency  for  him  to  imitate  them  ;  to 
say,  that  because  the  sun  burns  insects  alive,  he 
may  burn  insects  alive.  He  thinks  that  because 
the  sun  gives  people  sun-stroke,  he  may  give 
his  neighbour  measles.  He  thinks  that  because 
the  moon  is  said  to  drive  men  mad,  he  may 
drive  his  wife  mad.  This  ugly  side  of  mere 
external  optimism  had  also  shown  itself  in  the 
ancient  world.  About  the  time  when  the  Stoic 
idealism  had  begun  to  show  the  weaknesses  of 
pessimism,  the  old  nature  worship  of  the 
ancients  had  begun  to  show  the  enormous 
weaknesses  of  optimism.  Nature  worship  is 
natural  enough  while  the  society  is  young,  or,  in 
other  words,  Pantheism  is  all  right  as  long  as  it 
is  the  worship  of  Pan.  But  Nature  has  another 
side  which  experience  and  sin  are  not  slow  in 



finding  out,  and  it  is  no  flippancy  to  say  of  the 
god  Pan  that  he  soon  showed  the  cloven  hoof. 
The  only  objection  to  Natural  Religion  is  that 
somehow  it  always  becomes  unnatural.  A  man 
loves  Nature  in  the  morning  for  her  innocence 
and  amiability,  and  at  nightfall,  if  he  is  loving 
her  still,  it  is  for  her  darkness  and  her  cruelty. 
He  washes  at  dawn  in  clear  water  as  did  the 
Wise  Man  of  the  Stoics,  yet,  somehow  at  the 
dark  end  of  the  day,  he  is  bathing  in  hot  bull's 
blood,  as  did  Julian  the  Apostate.  The  mere 
pursuit  of  health  always  leads  to  something  un- 
healthy. Physical  nature  must  not  be  made 
the  direct  object  of  obedience  ;  it  must  be 
enjoyed,  not  worshipped.  Stars  and  mountains 
must  not  be  taken  seriously.  If  they  are,  we 
end  where  the  pagan  nature  worship  ended. 
Because  the  earth  is  kind,  we  can  imitate  all  her 
cruelties.  Because  sexuality  is  sane,  we  can  all 
go  mad  about  sexuality.  Mere  optimism  had 
reached  its  insane  and  appropriate  termina- 
tion. The  theory  that  everything  was  good 
had  become  an  orgy  of  everything  that  was 

On  the  other  side  our  idealist  pessimists 
were  represented  by  the  old  remnant  of  the 
Stoics.  Marcus  Aurelius  and  his  friends  had 
really  given    up    the   idea  of  any  god  in   the 


The  Flag  of  the    World 

universe  and  looked  only  to  the  god  within. 
They  had  no  hope  of  any  virtue  in  nature,  and 
hardly  any  hope  of  any  virtue  in  society. 
They  had  not  enough  interest  in  the  outer 
world  really  to  wreck  or  revolutionise  it.  They 
did  not  love  the  city  enough  to  set  fire  to  it. 
Thus  the  ancient  world  was  exactly  in  our  own 
desolate  dilemma.  The  only  people  who  really 
enjoyed  this  world  were  busy  breaking  it  up  ; 
and  the  virtuous  people  did  not  care  enough 
about  them  to  knock  them  down.  In  this 
dilemma  (the  same  as  ours)  Christianity  sud- 
denly stepped  in  and  offered  a  singular  answer, 
which  the  world  eventually  accepted  as  the 
answer.  It  was  the  answer  then,  and  I  think 
it  is  the  answer  now. 

This  answer  was  like  the  slash  of  a  sword  ; 
it  sundered  ;  it  did  not  in  any  sense  sentiment- 
ally unite.  Briefly,  it  divided  God  from  the 
cosmos.  That  transcendence  and  distinctness 
of  the  deity  which  some  Christians  now  want 
to  remove  from  Christianity,  was  really  the 
only  reason  why  any  one  wanted  to  be  a 
Christian.  It  was  the  whole  point  of  the 
Christian  answer  to  the  unhappy  pessimist  and 
the  still  more  unhappy  optimist.  As  I  am 
here  only  concerned  with  their  particular 
problem      I    shall    indicate    only    briefly    this 



great  metaphysical  suggestion.  All  descrip- 
tions of  the  creating  or  sustaining  principle 
in  things  must  be  metaphorical,  because  they 
must  be  verbal.  Thus  the  pantheist  is  forced 
to  speak  of  God  in  all  things  as  if  he  were 
in  a  box.  Thus  the  evolutionist  has,  in  his 
very  name,  the  idea  of  being  unrolled  like  a 
carpet.  All  terms,  religious  and  irreligious, 
are  open  to  this  charge.  The  only  question 
is  whether  all  terms  are  useless,  or  whether 
one  can,  with  such  a  phrase,  cover  a  distinct 
idea  about  the  origin  of  things.  I  think  one 
can,  and  so  evidently  does  the  evolutionist,  or 
he  would  not  talk  about  evolution.  And  the 
root  phrase  for  all  Christian  theism  was  this, 
that  God  was  a  creator,  as  an  artist  is  a  creator. 
A  poet  is  so  separate  from  his  poem  that  he 
himself  speaks  of  it  as  a  little  thing  he  has 
"  thrown  off."  Even  in  giving  it  forth  he  has 
flung  it  away.  This  principle  that  all  creation 
and  procreation  is  a  breaking  off  is  at  least  as 
consistent  through  the  cosmos  as  the  evolu- 
tionary principle  that  all  growth  is  a  branching 
out.  A  woman  loses  a  child  even  in  having 
a  child.  All  creation  is  separation.  Birth  is 
as  solemn  a  parting  as  death. 

It   was    the    prime  philosophic    principle    of 
Christianity  that  this  divorce  in  the  divine  act 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

of  making  (such  as  severs  the  poet  from  the 
poem  or  the  mother  from  the  new-horn  child) 
was  the  true  description  of  the  act  whereby 
the  absolute  energy  made  the  world.  Accord- 
ing to  most  philosophers,  God  in  making  the 
world  enslaved  it.  According  to  Christianity, 
in  making  itx  He  set  it  free.  God  had  written, 
not  so  much  a  poem,  but  rather  a  play ;  a 
play  he  had  planned  as  perfect,  but  which  had 
necessarily  been  left  to  human  actors  and  stage- 
managers,  who  had  since  made  a  great  mess  of 
it.  I  will  discuss  the  truth  of  this  theorem 
later.  Here  I  have  only  to  point  out  with 
what  a  startling  smoothness  it  passed  the 
dilemma  we  have  discussed  in  this  chapter. 
In  this  way  at  least  one  could  be  both  happy 
and  indignant  without  degrading  one's  self  to 
be  either  a  pessimist  or  an  optimist.  On  this 
system  one  could  fight  all  the  forces  of  exist- 
ence without  deserting  the  flag  of  existence. 
One  could  be  at  peace  with  the  universe  and 
yet  be  at  war  with  the  world.  St.  George 
could  still  fight  the  dragon,  however  big  the 
monster  bulked  in  the  cosmos,  though  he 
were  bigger  than  the  mighty  cities  or  bigger 
than  the  everlasting  hills.  If  he  were  as  big 
as  the  world  he  could  yet  be  killed  in  the  name 
of  the  world.     St.  George  had  not  to  consider 



any  obvious  odds  or  proportions  in  the  scale 
of  things,  but  only  the  original  secret  of  their 
design.  He  can  shake  his  sword  at  the 
dragon,  even  if  it  is  everything ;  even  if 
the  empty  heavens  over  his  head  are  only  the 
huge  arch  of  its  open  jaws. 

And  then  followed  an  experience  impossible 
to  describe.  It  was  as  if  I  had  been  blundering 
about  since  my  birth  with  two  huge  and  un- 
manageable machines,  of  different  shapes  and 
without  apparent  connection — the  world  and 
the  Christian  tradition.  I  had  found  this  hole 
in  the  world  :  the  fact  that  one  must  somehow 
find  a  way  of  loving  the  world  without  trusting 
it ;  somehow  one  must  love  the  world  without 
being  worldly.  I  found  this  projecting  feature 
of  Christian  theology,  like  a  sort  of  hard  spike, 
the  dogmatic  insistence  that  God  was  personal, 
and  had  made  a  world  separate  from  Himself. 
The  spike  of  dogma  fitted  exactly  into  the  hole 
in  the  world — it  had  evidently  been  meant  to 
go  there — and  then  the  strange  thing  began  to 
happen.  When  once  these  two  parts  of  the 
two  machines  had  come  together,  one  after 
another,  all  the  other  parts  fitted  and  fell  in 
with  an  eerie  exactitude.  I  could  hear  bolt 
after  bolt  over  all  the  machinery  falling  into  its 
place  with  a  kind  of  click  of  relief.     Having 


The  Fla< j  of  the   World 

got  one  part  right,  all  the  other  parts  were 
repeating  that  rectitude,  as  clock  after  clock 
strikes  noon.  Instinct  after  instinct  was 
answered  by  doctrine  after  doctrine.  Or,  to 
vary  the  metaphor,  I  was  like  one  who  had 
advanced  into  a  hostile  country  to  take  one 
high  fortress.  And  when  that  fort  had  fallen 
the  whole  country  surrendered  and  turned  solid 
behind  me.  The  whole  land  was  lit  up,  as  it 
were,  back  to  the  first  fields  of  my  childhood. 
All  those  blind  fancies  of  boyhood  which  in 
the  fourth  chapter  I  have  tried  in  vain  to  trace 
on  the  darkness,  became  suddenly  transparent 
and  sane.  I  was  right  when  I  felt  that  roses 
were  red  by  some  sort  of  choice  :  it  was  the 
divine  choice.  I  was  right  when  I  felt  that  I 
would  almost  rather  say  that  grass  was  the 
wrong  colour  than  say  that  it  must  by  necessity 
have  been  that  colour  :  it  might  verily  have 
been  any  other.  My  sense  that  happiness 
hung  on  the  crazy  thread  of  a  condition  did 
mean  something  when  all  was  said  :  it  meant 
the  whole  doctrine  of  the  Fall.  Even  those 
dim  and  shapeless  monsters  of  notions  which  I 
have  not  been  able  to  describe,  much  less 
defend,  stepped  quietly  into  their  places  like 
colossal  caryatides  of  the  creed.  The  fancy 
that  the  cosmos  was    not   vast    and  void,   but 


small  and  cosy,  had  a  fulfilled  significance 
now,  for  anything  that  is  a  work  of  art  must 
be  small  in  the  sight  of  the  artist ;  to  God 
the  stars  might  be  only  small  and  dear,  like 
diamonds.  And  my  haunting  instinct  that 
somehow  good  was  not  merely  a  tool  to  be 
used,  but  a  relic  to  be  guarded,  like  the  goods 
from  Crusoe's  ship — even  that  had  been  the 
wild  whisper  of  something  originally  wise,  for, 
according  to  Christianity,  we  were  indeed  the 
survivors  of  a  wreck,  the  crew  of  a  golden  ship 
that  had  gone  down  before  the  beginning  of 
the  world. 

But  the  important  matter  was  this,  that  it 
entirely  reversed  the  reason  for  optimism. 
And  the  instant  the  reversal  was  made  it  felt 
like  the  abrupt  ease  when  a  bone  is  put  back 
in  the  socket.  I  had  often  called  myself  an 
optimist,  to  avoid  the  too  evident  blasphemy  of 
pessimism.  But  all  the  optimism  of  the  age 
had  been  false  and  disheartening  for  this 
reason,  that  it  had  always  been  trying  to  prove 
that  we  fit  in  to  the  world.  The  Christian 
optimism  is  based  on  the  fact  that  we  do  not 
fit  in  to  the  world.  I  had  tried  to  be  happy 
by  telling  myself  that  man  is  an  animal,  like 
any  other  which  sought  its  meat  from  God. 
But  now  I  really  was  happy,  for  I  had  learnt 


The  Flag  of  the   World 

that  man  is  a  monstrosity,  I  had  been  right 
in  feeling  all  things  as  odd,  for  I  myself  was  at 
once  worse  and  better  than  all  things.  The 
optimist's  pleasure  was  prosaic,  for  it  dwelt  on 
the  naturalness  of  everything  ;  the  Christian 
pleasure  was  poetic,  for  it  dwelt  on  the  un- 
naturalness  of  everything  in  the  light  of  the 
supernatural.  The  modern  philosopher  had 
told  me  again  and  again  that  I  was  in  the  right 
place,  and  I  had  still  felt  depressed  even  in 
acquiescence.  But  I  had  heard  that  I  was  in 
the  wrong  place,  and  my  soul  sang  for  joy,  like 
a  bird  in  spring.  The  knowledge  found  out 
and  illuminated  forgotten  chambers  in  the  dark 
house  of  infancy.  I  knew  now  why  grass  had 
always  seemed  to  me  as  queer  as  the  green 
beard  of  a  giant,  and  why  I  could  feel  home- 
sick at  home. 


Chapter  VI— The  Paradoxes  of  Chris 


^HE  real  trouble  with  this  world  of 
ours  is  not  that  it  is  an  unreasonable 
world,  nor  even  that  it  is  a  reason- 
able one.  The  commonest  kind 
of  trouble  is  that  it  is  nearly  reasonable,  but  not 
quite.  Life  is  not  an  illogicality  ;  yet  it  is  a 
trap  for  logicians.  It  looks  just  a  little  more 
mathematical  and  regular  than  it  is  ;  its  exacti- 
tude is  obvious,  but  its  inexactitude  is  hidden  ; 
its  wildness  lies  in  wait.  I  give  one  coarse 
instance  of  what  I  mean.  Suppose  some  mathe- 
matical creature  from  the  moon  were  to  reckon 
up  the  human  body  ;  he  would  at  once  see  that 
the  essential  thing  about  it  was  that  it  was 
duplicate.  A  man  is  two  men,  he  on  the  right 
exactly  resembling  him  on  the  left.  Having 
noted  that  there  was  an  arm  on  the  right  and 
one  on  the  left,  a  leg  on  the  right  and  one  on 
the  left,  he  might  go  further  and  still  find  on 
each  side  the  same  number  of  fingers,  the  same 
number  of  toes,  twin  eyes,  twin  ears,  twin 
nostrils,  and  even  twin  lobes  of  the  brain. 
At  last  he  would  take  it  as  a  law  ;  and  then, 
where  he  found  a  heart  on    one    side,  would 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

deduce  that  there  was  another  heart  on  the 
other.  And  just  then,  where  he  most  felt  he 
was  right,  he  would  be  wrong. 

It  is  this  silent  swerving  from  accuracy  by  an 
inch  that  is  the  uncanny  element  in  everything. 
It  seems  a  sort  of  secret  treason  in  the  universe. 
An  apple  or  an  orange  is  round  enough  to 
get  itself  called  round,  and  yet  is  not  round 
after  all.  The  earth  itself  is  shaped  like  an 
orange  in  order  to  lure  some  simple  astronomer 
into  calling  it  a  globe.  A  blade  of  grass  is 
called  after  the  blade  of  a  sword,  because  it  comes 
to  a  point ;  but  it  doesn't.  Everywhere  in 
things  there  is  this  element  of  the  quiet  and 
incalculable.  It  escapes  the  rationalists,  but  it 
never  escapes  till  the  last  moment.  From  the 
grand  curve  of  our  earth  it  could  easily  be 
inferred  that  every  inch  of  it  was  thus  curved. 
It  would  seem  rational  that  as  a  man  has  a 
brain  on  both  sides,  he  should  have  a  heart 
on  both  sides.  Yet  scientific  men  are  still 
organizing  expeditions  to  find  the  North  Pole, 
because  they  are  so  fond  of  flat  country. 
Scientific  men  are  also  still  organising  expedi- 
tions to  find  a  man's  heart ;  and  when  they  try 
to  find  it,  they  generally  get  on  the  wrong  side 
of  him. 

Now,   actual    insight  or    inspiration    is   best 



tested    by    whether    it   guesses    these    hidden 
malformations  or  surprises.     If  our  mathema- 
tician from  the  moon  saw  the  two  arms  and  the 
two  ears,  he  might  deduce  the  two  shoulder- 
blades  and  the  two  halves  of  the  brain.     But  if 
he  guessed   that   the   man's   heart  was   in    the 
right  place,  then  I  should  call  him  something 
more    than    a    mathematician.     Now,    this    is 
exactly  the  claim  which  I  have  since  come  to 
propound  for  Christianity.     Not  merely  that  it 
deduces  logical  truths,  but  that  when  it  suddenly 
becomes  illogical,  it  has  found,  so  to  speak,  an 
illogical  truth.      It  not  only  goes  right  about 
things,  but  it  goes  wrong  (if  one  may  say  so) 
exactly  where  the  things  go  wrong.      Its  plan 
suits  the   secret  irregularities,  and  expects  the 
unexpected.      It    is    simple    about    the    simple 
truth  ;    but    it    is    stubborn    about    the    subtle 
truth.     It  will  admit  that  a  man  has  two  hands, 
it  will  not   admit  (though   all   the  Modernists 
wail  to  it)  the  obvious  deduction  that  he  has 
two    hearts.     It    is  my  only    purpose    in    this 
chapter  to  point  this  out ;  to  show  that  when- 
ever we  feel  there  is  something  odd  in  Christian 
theology,  we  shall  generally  find  that  there  is 
something  odd  in  the  truth. 

I  have  alluded   to  an  unmeaning  phrase  to 
rhe   effect  that  such  and  such  a  creed  cannot 


The   Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

be  believed  in  our  age.  Of  course,  anything 
can  be  believed  in  any  age.  But,  oddly 
enough,  there  really  is  a  sense  in  which  a 
creed,  if  it  is  believed  at  all,  can  be  believed 
more  fixedly  in  a  complex  society  than  in  a 
simple  one.  If  a  man  finds  Christianity  true 
in  Birmingham,  he  has  actually  clearer  reasons 
for  faith  than  if  he  had  found  it  true  in  Mercia. 
For  the  more  complicated  seems  the  coincidence, 
the  less  it  can  be  a  coincidence.  If  snowflakes 
fell  in  the  shape,  say,  of  the  heart  of  Midlothian, 
it  might  be  an  accident.  But  if  snowflakes  fell 
in  the  exact  shape  of  the  maze  at  Hampton 
Court,  1  think  one  might  call  it  a  miracle.  It 
is  exactly  as  of  such  a  miracle  that  I  have  since 
come  to  feel  of  the  philosophy  of  Christianity. 
The  complication  of  our  modern  world  proves 
the  truth  of  the  creed  more  perfectly  than  any  of 
the  plain  problems  of  the  ages  of  faith.  It  was 
in  Notting  Hill  and  Battersea  that  I  began  to 
see  that  Christianity  was  true.  This  is  why 
the  faith  has  that  elaboration  of  doctrines  and 
details  which  so  much  distresses  those  who 
admire  Christianity  without  believing  in  it. 
When  once  one  believes  in  a  creed,  one  is 
proud  of  its  complexity,  as  scientists  are  proud 
of  the  complexity  of  science.  It  shows  how 
rich  it  is  in  discoveries.     If  it  is  right  at  all, 



it  is  a  compliment  to  say  that  it's  elaborately 
right.  A  stick  might  fit  a  hole  or  a  stone  a 
hollow  by  accident.  But  a  key  and  a  lock  are 
both  complex.  And  if  a  key  fits  a  lock,  you 
know  it  is  the  right  key. 

But  this  involved  accuracy  of  the  thing 
makes  it  very  difficult  to  do  what  I  now 
have  to  do,  to  describe  this  accumulation  of 
truth.  It  is  very  hard  for  a  man  to  defend 
anything  of  which  he  is  entirely  convinced. 
It  is  comparatively  easy  when  he  is  only 
partially  convinced.  He  is  partially  convinced 
because  he  has  found  this  or  that  proof  of  the 
thing,  and  he  can  expound  it.  But  a  man  is 
not  really  convinced  of  a  philosophic  theory 
when  he  finds  that  something  proves  it  He 
is  only  really  convinced  when  he  finds  that 
everything  proves  it.  And  the  more  con- 
verging reasons  he  finds  pointing  to  this 
conviction,  the  more  bewildered  he  is  if 
asked  suddenly  to  sum  them  up.  Thus,  ir 
one  asked  an  ordinary  intelligent  man,  on 
the  spur  of  the  moment,  "  Why  do  you 
prefer  civilisation  to  savagery  ? "  he  would 
look  wildly  round  at  object  after  object,  and 
would  only  be  able  to  answer  vaguely,  "  Why, 
there  is  that  bookcase  .  .  .  and  the  coals  in 
the   coal-scuttle    .    .    .   and   pianos    .    •    •   and 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

policemen."  The  whole  case  for  civilisation 
is  that  the  case  for  it  is  complex.  It  has  done 
so  many  things.  But  that  very  multiplicity  of 
proof  which  ought  to  make  reply  overwhelming 
makes  reply  impossible. 

There  is,  therefore,  about  all  complete  con- 
viction a  kind  of  huge  helplessness.  The  belief 
is  so  big  that  it  takes  a  long  time  to  get  it  into 
action.  And  this  hesitation  chiefly  arises,  oddly 
enough*  from  an  indifference  about  where  one 
should  begin.  All  roads  lead  to  Rome  ;  which 
is  one  reason  why  many  people  never  get  there. 
In  the  case  of  this  defence  of  the  Christian  con- 
viction I  confess  that  I  would  as  soon  begin  the 
argument  with  one  thing  as  another  ;  I  would 
begin  it  with  a  turnip  or  a  taximeter  cab.  But 
if  I  am  to  be  at  all  careful  about  making  my 
meaning  clear,  it  will,  I  think,  be  wiser  to  con- 
tinue the  current  arguments  of  the  last  chapter, 
which  was  concerned  to  urge  the  first  of  these 
mystical  coincidences,  or  rather  ratifications. 
All  I  had  hitherto  heard  of  Christian  theology 
had  alienated  me  from  it.  I  was  a  pagan  at  the 
age  of  twelve,  and  a  complete  agnostic  by  the 
age  of  sixteen  ;  and  I  cannot  understand  any 
one  passing  the  age  of  seventeen  without  having 
asked  himself  so  simple  a  question.  I  did, 
indeed,  retain  a  cloudy  reverence  for  a  cosmic 



deity  and  a  great  historical  interest  in  the 
Founder  of  Christianity.  But  I  certainly  re- 
garded Him  as  a  man  ;  though  perhaps  I  thought 
that,  even  in  that  point,  He  had  an  advantage 
over  some  of  His  modern  critics.  I  read  the 
scientific  and  sceptical  literature  of  my  time — 
all  of  it,  at  least,  that  I  could  find  written  in 
English  and  lying  about ;  and  I  read  nothing 
else  ;  I  mean  I  read  nothing  else  on  any  other 
note  of  philosophy.  The  penny  dreadfuls 
which  I  also  read  were  indeed  in  a  healthy  and 
heroic  tradition  of  Christianity  ;  but  I  did  not 
know  this  at  the  time.  I  never  read  a  line 
of  Christian  apologetics.  I  read  as  little  as  I 
can  of  them  now.  It  was  Huxley  and  Herbert 
Spencer  and  Bradlaugh  who  brought  me  back 
to  orthodox  theology.  They  sowed  in  my  mind 
my  first  wild  doubts  of  doubt.  Our  grand- 
mothers were  quite  right  when  they  said  that 
Tom  Paine  and  the  free-thinkers  unsettled  the 
mind.  They  do.  They  unsettled  mine  hor- 
ribly. The  rationalist  made  me  question 
whether  reason  was  of  any  use  whatever  ;  and 
when  I  had  finished  Herbert  Spencer  I  had  got 
as  far  as  doubting  (for  the  first  time)  whether 
evolution  had  occurred  at  all.  As  I  laid  down 
the  last  of  Colonel  Ingersoll's  atheistic  lectures 
the  dreadful  thought   broke  across  my  mind, 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

"  Almost  thou  persuadest  me  to  be  a  Christian." 
I  was  in  a  desperate  way. 

This  odd  effect  of  the  great  agnostics  in 
arousing  doubts  deeper  than  their  own  might 
be  illustrated  in  many  ways.  I  take  only  one. 
As  1  read  and  re-read  all  the  non-Christian  or 
anti-Christian  accounts  of  the  faith,  from 
Huxley  to  Bradlaugh,  a  slow  and  awful  impres- 
sion grew  gradually  but  graphically  upon  my 
mind — the  impression  that  Christianity  must  be 
a  most  extraordinary  thing.  For  not  only  (as 
I  understood)  had  Christianity  the  most  flaming 
vices,  but  it  had  apparently  a  mystical  talent  for 
combining  vices  which  seemed  inconsistent  with 
each  other.  It  was  attacked  on  all  sides  and  for 
all  contradictory  reasons.  No  sooner  had  one 
rationalist  demonstrated  that  it  was  too  far  to 
the  east  than  another  demonstrated  with  equal 
clearness  that  it  was  much  too  far  to  the  west. 
No  sooner  had  my  indignation  died  down  at  its 
angular  and  aggressive  squareness  than  I  was 
called  up  again  to  notice  and  condemn  its 
enervating  and  sensual  roundness.  In  case  any 
reader  has  not  come  across  the  thing  I  mean, 
I  will  give  such  instances  as  I  remember  at 
random  of  this  self-contradiction  in  the  sceptical 
attack.  I  give  four  or  five  of  them  ;  there  are 
fifty  more. 

153  F  2 


Thus,  for  instance,  I  was  much  moved   by 
the  eloquent  attack  on  Christianity  as  a  thing 
of  inhuman   gloom  ;  for  I   thought  (and  still 
think)  sincere  pessimism  the  unpardonable  sin. 
Insincere  pessimism  is  a  social  accomplishment, 
rather  agreeable  than  otherwise  ;  and  fortunately 
nearly   all    pessimism     is    insincere.       But    if 
Christianity  was,  as  these  people  said,  a  thing 
purely  pessimistic  and  opposed  to  life,  then  I 
was    quite    prepared    to    blow    up    St.    Paul's 
Cathedral.      But  the  extraordinary  thing  is  this. 
They  did  prove  to  me  in  Chapter  I.  (to  my 
complete  satisfaction)  that  Christianity  was  too 
pessimistic  ;    and    then,   in    Chapter   II.,  they 
began  to  prove  to  me  that  it  was  a  great  deal 
too  optimistic.     One  accusation  against  Chris- 
tianity was  that  it  prevented  men,  by  morbid 
tears  and  terrors,  from  seeking  joy  and  liberty 
in  the  bosom  of  Nature.     But  another  accusa- 
tion was  that  it  comforted  men  with  a  fictitious 
providence,  and  put  them  in  a  pink-and-white 
nursery.     One  great  agnostic  asked  why  Nature 
was  not  beautiful  enough,  and  why  it  was  hard 
to   be  free.      Another  great  agnostic  objected 
that    Christian    optimism,    u  the    garment     of 
make-believe  woven  by  pious  hands,"  hid  from 
us  the  fact  that  Nature  was  ugly,  and  that  it 
was  impossible  to  be  free.     One  rationalist  had 


lite  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

hardly  done  calling  Christianity  a  nightmare 
before  another  began  to  call  it  a  fool's  paradise. 
This  puzzled  me  ;  the  charges  seemed  incon- 
sistent. Christianity  could  not  at  once  be  the 
black  mask  on  a  white  world,  and  also  the  white 
mask  on  a  black  world.  The  state  of  the 
Christian  could  not  be  at  once  so  comfortable 
that  he  was  a  coward  to  cling  to  it,  and  so  un- 
comfortable that  he  was  a  fool  to  stand  it.  If 
it  falsified  human  vision  it  must  falsify  it  one 
way  or  another  ;  it  could  not  wear  both  green 
and  rose-coloured  spectacles.  I  rolled  on  my 
tongue  with  a  terrible  joy,  as  did  all  young  men 
of  that  time,  the  taunts  which  Swinburne  hurled 
at  the  dreariness  of  the  creed — 

"  Thou  hast  conquered,  O  pale  Galilaean,  the  world  has  grown 
gray  with  Thy  breath." 

But  when  I  read  the  same  poet's  accounts  of 
paganism  (as  in  "  Atalanta "),  I  gathered  that 
the  world  was,  if  possible,  more  gray  before  the 
Galilaean  breathed  on  it  than  afterwards.  The 
poet  maintained,  indeed,  in  the  abstract,  that 
life  itself  was  pitch  dark.  And  yet,  somehow, 
Christianity  had  darkened  it.  The  very  man 
who  denounced  Christianity  for  pessimism  was 
himself  a  pessimist.  I  thought  there  must  be 
something  wrong.      And   it  did  for  one  wild 



moment  cross  my  mind  that,  perhaps,  those 
might  not  be  the  very  best  judges  of  the 
relation  of  religion  to  happiness  who,  by  their 
own  account,  had  neither  one  nor  the  other. 

It  must  be  understood  that  I  did  not  con- 
clude hastily  that  the  accusations  were  false  or 
the  accusers  fools.  I  simply  deduced  that 
Christianity  must  be  something  even  weirder 
and  wickeder  than  they  made  out.  A  thing 
might  have  these  two  opposite  vices  ;  but  it 
must  be  a  rather  queer  thing  if  it  did.  A  man 
might  be  too  fat  in  one  place  and  too  thin  in 
another  ;  but  he  would  be  an  odd  shape.  At 
this  point  my  thoughts  were  only  of  the  odd 
shape  of  the  Christian  religion ;  I  did  not 
allege  any  odd  shape  in  the  rationalistic  mind. 

Here  is  another  case  of  the  same  kind.  I  felt 
that  a  strong  case  against  Christianity  lay  in  the 
charge  that  there  is  something  timid,  monkish, 
and  unmanly  about  all  that  is  called  "  Christian," 
especially  in  its  attitude  towards  resistance  and 
fighting.  The  great  sceptics  of  the  nineteenth 
century  were  largely  virile.  Bradlaugh  in  an 
expansive  way,  Huxley  in  a  reticent  way,  were 
decidedly  men.  In  comparison,  it  did  seem 
tenable  that  there  was  something  weak  and  over 
patient  about  Christian  counsels.  The  Gospel 
paradox  about  the  other  cheek,   the  fact  that 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

priests  never  fought,  a  hundred  things  made 
plausible  the  accusation  that  Christianity  was  an 
attempt  to  make  a  man  too  like  a  sheep.  I  read 
it  and  believed  it,  and  if  I  had  read  nothing 
different,  I  should  have  gone  on  believing  it. 
But  I  read  something  very  different.  I  turned 
the  next  page  in  my  agnostic  manual,  and  my 
brain  turned  up-side  down.  Now  I  found  that 
I  was  to  hate  Christianity  not  for  fighting  too 
little,  but  for  fighting  too  much.  Christianity, 
it  seemed,  was  the  mother  of  wars.  Christianity 
had  deluged  the  world  with  blood.  I  had  got 
thoroughly  angry  with  the  Christian,  because  he 
never  was  angry.  And  now  I  was  told  to  be 
angry  with  him  because  his  anger  had  been  the 
most  huge  and  horrible  thing  in  human  history  ; 
because  his  anger  had  soaked  the  earth  and 
smoked  to  the  sun.  The  very  people  who  re- 
proached Christianity  with  the  meekness  and 
non-resistance  of  the  monastries  were  the  very 
people  who  reproached  it  also  with  the  violence 
and  valour  of  the  Crusades.  It  was  the  fault  of 
poor  old  Christianity  (somehow  or  other)  both 
that  Edward  the  Confessor  did  not  fight  and 
that  Richard  Coeur  de  Lion  did.  The  Quakers 
(we  were  told)  were  the  only  characteristic 
Christians  ;  and  yet  the  massacres  of  Cromwell 
and  Alva  were  characteristic  Christian  crimes. 



What  could  it  all  mean  ?  What  was  this 
Christianity  which  always  forbade  war  and 
always  produced  wars  ?  What  could  be  the 
nature  of  the  thing  which  one  could  abuse  first 
because  it  would  not  fight,  and  second  because  it 
was  always  fighting  ?  In  what  world  of  riddles 
was  born  this  monstrous  murder  and  this  mon- 
strous meekness  ?  The  shape  of  Christianity 
grew  a  queerer  shape  every  instant. 

I  take  a  third  case  ;  the  strangest  of  all, 
because  it  involves  the  one  real  objection  to  the 
faith.  The  one  real  objection  to  the  Christian 
religion  is  simply  that  it  is  one  religion.  The 
world  is  a  big  place,  full  of  very  different  kinds 
of  people.  Christianity  (it  may  reasonably  be 
said)  is  one  thing  confined  to  one  kind  of 
people  ;  it  began  in  Palestine,  it  has  practically 
stopped  with  Europe.  I  was  duly  impressed 
with  this  argument  in  my  youth,  and  I  was 
much  drawn  towards  the  doctrine  often  preached 
in  Ethical  Societies — I  mean  the  doctrine  that 
there  is  one  great  unconscious  church  of  all 
humanity  founded  on  the  omnipresence  of 
the  human  conscience.  Creeds,  it  was  said, 
divided  men  ;  but  at  least  morals  united  them. 
The  soul  might  seek  the  strangest  and  most 
remote  lands  and  ages  and  still  find  essen- 
tial   ethical    common    sense.      It    might    find 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

Confucius  under  Eastern  trees,  and  he  would 
be  writing  "Thou  shalt  not  steal/'  It  might 
decipher  the  darkest  hieroglyphic  on  the 
most  primeval  desert,  and  the  meaning  when 
deciphered  would  be  "  Little  boys  should 
tell  the  truth."  I  believed  this  doctrine 
of  the  brotherhood  of  all  men  in  the  pos- 
session of  a  moral  sense,  and  I  believe 
it  still — with  other  things.  And  I  was 
thoroughly  annoyed  with  Christianity  for 
suggesting  (as  I  supposed)  that  whole  ages  and 
empires  of  men  had  utterly  escaped  this  light 
of  justice  and  reason.  But  then  I  found  an 
astonishing  thing.  I  found  that  the  very 
people  who  said  that  mankind  was  one  church 
from  Plato  to  Emerson  were  the  very  people 
who  said  that  morality  had  changed  altogether, 
and  that  what  was  right  in  one  age  was  wrong 
in  another.  If  I  asked,  say,  for  an  altar,  I 
was  told  that  we  needed  none,  for  men  our 
brothers  gave  us  clear  oracles  and  one  creed  in 
their  universal  customs  and  ideals.  But  if  I 
mildly  pointed  out  that  one  of  men's  universal 
customs  was  to  have  an  altar,  then  my  agnostic 
teachers  turned  clean  round  and  told  me  that 
men  had  always  been  in  darkness  and  the 
superstitions  of  savages.  I  found  it  was  their 
daily  taunt  against  Christianity  that  it  was  the 



light  of  one  people  and  had  left  all  others  to 
die  in  the  dark.  But  I  also  found  that  it  was 
their  special  boast  for  themselves  that  science 
and  progress  were  the  discovery  of  one  people, 
and  that  all  other  peoples  had  died  in  the  dark. 
Their  chief  insult  to  Christianity  was  actually 
their  chief  compliment  to  themselves,  and 
there  seemed  to  be  a  strange  unfairness  about 
all  their  relative  insistence  on  the  two  things. 
When  considering  some  pagan  or  agnostic, 
we  were  to  remember  that  all  men  had  one 
religion  ;  when  considering  some  mystic  or 
spiritualist,  we  were  only  to  consider  what 
absurd  religions  some  men  had.  We  could 
trust  the  ethics  of  Epictetus,  because  ethics  had 
never  changed.  We  must  not  trust  the  ethics 
of  Bossuet,  because  ethics  had  changed.  They 
changed  in  two  hundred  years,  but  not  in  two 

This  began  to  be  alarming.  It  looked  not  so 
much  as  if  Christianity  was  bad  enough  to 
include  any  vices,  but  rather  as  if  any  stick  was 
good  enough  to  beat  Christianity  with.  What 
again  could  this  astonishing  thing  be  like  which 
people  were  so  anxious  to  contradict,  that  in 
doing  so  they  did  not  mind  contradicting  them- 
selves ?  I  saw  the  same  thing  on  every  side. 
I  can  give  no  further  space  to  this  discussion  of 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

it  in  detail  ;  but  lest  any  one  supposes  that  I 
have  unfairly  selected  three  accidental  cases  I 
will  run  briefly  through  a  few  others.  Thus, 
certain  sceptics  wrote  that  the  great  crime  of 
Christianity  had  been  its  attack  on  the  family  ; 
it  had  dragged  women  to  the  loneliness  and 
contemplation  of  the  cloister,  away  from  their 
homes  and  their  children.  But,  then,  other 
sceptics  (slightly  more  advanced)  said  that  the 
great  crime  of  Christianity  was  forcing  the 
family  and  marriage  upon  us  ;  that  it  doomed 
women  to  the  drudgery  of  their  homes  and 
children,  and  forbade  them  loneliness  and  con- 
templation. The  charge  was  actually  reversed. 
Or,  again,  certain  phrases  in  the  Epistles  or  the 
Marriage  Service,  were  said  by  the  anti-Christians 
to  show  contempt  for  woman's  intellect.  But 
I  found  that  the  anti- Christians  themselves 
had  a  contempt  for  woman's  intellect ;  for  it 
was  their  great  sneer  at  the  Church  on  the 
Continent  that  "only  women  "  went  to  it.  Or 
again,  Christianity  was  reproached  with  its 
naked  and  hungry  habits  ;  with  its  sackcloth 
and  dried  peas.  But  the  next  minute  Christi- 
anity was  being  reproached  with  its  pomp  and 
its  ritualism  ;  its  shrines  of  porphyry  and  its 
robes  of  gold.  It  was  abused  for  being  too 
plain   and    for    being    too    coloured.      Again 



Christianity  had  always  been  accused  of  restrain- 
ing sexuality  too  much,  when  Bradlaugh  the 
Malthusian  discovered  that  it  restrained  it  too 
little.  It  is  often  accused  in  the  same  breath  of 
prim  respectability  and  of  religious  extrava- 
gance. Between  the  covers  of  the  same  athe- 
istic pamphlet  I  have  found  the  faith  rebuked 
for  its  disunion,  "  One  thinks  one  thing,  and 
one  another,' '  and  rebuked  also  for  its  union, 
"  It  is  difference  of  opinion  that  prevents  the 
world  from  going  to  the  dogs."  In  the  same 
conversation  a  free-thinker,  a  friend  of  mine, 
blamed  Christianity  for  despising  Jews,  and  then 
despised  it  himself  for  being  Jewish. 

I  wished  to  be  quite  fair  then,  and  I  wish 
to  be  quite  fair  now  ;  and  I  did  not  conclude 
that  the  attack  on  Christianity  was  all  wrong. 
I  only  concluded  that  if  Christianity  was 
wrong,  it  was  very  wrong  indeed.  Such 
hostile  horrors  might  be  combined  in  one 
thing,  but  that  thing  must  be  very  strange 
and  solitary.  There  are  men  who  are  misers, 
and  also  spendthrifts  ;  but  they  are  rare. 
There  are  men  sensual  and  also  ascetic  ;  but 
they  are  rare.  But  if  this  mass  of  mad  con- 
tradictions really  existed,  quakerish  and  blood- 
thirsty, too  gorgeous  and  too  thread-bare, 
austere,   yet    pandering    preposterously  to  the 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

lust  of  the  eye,  the  enemy  of  women  and  their 
foolish  refuge,  a  solemn  pessimist  and  a  silly 
optimist,  if  this  evil  existed,  then  there  was  in 
this  evil  something  quite  supreme  and  unique. 
For  I  found  in  my  rationalist  teachers  no 
explanation  of  such  exceptional  corruption. 
Christianity  (theoretically  speaking)  was  in 
their  eyes  only  one  of  the  ordinary  myths  and 
errors  of  mortals.  They  gave  me  no  key  to 
this  twisted  and  unnatural  badness.  Such  a 
paradox  of  evil  rose  to  the  stature  of  the 
supernatural.  It  was,  indeed,  almost  as  super- 
natural as  the  infallibility  of  the  Pope.  An 
historic  institution,  which  never  went  right, 
is  really  quite  as  much  of  a  miracle  as  an 
institution  that  cannot  go  wrong.  The  only 
explanation  which  immediately  occurred  to  my 
mind  was  that  Christianity  did  not  come  from 
heaven,  but  from  hell.  Really,  if  Jesus  of 
Nazareth  was  not  Christ,  He  must  have  been 

And  then  in  a  quiet  hour  a  strange  thought 
struck  me  like  a  still  thunderbolt.  There  had 
suddenly  come  into  my  mind  another  explana- 
tion. Suppose  we  heard  an  unknown  man 
spoken  of  by  many  men.  Suppose  we  were 
puzzled  to  hear  that  some  men  said  he  was  too 
tall  and  some  too  short ;  some  objected  to  his 



fatness,  some  lamented  his  leanness  ;  some 
thought  him  too  dark,  and  some  too  fair.  One 
explanation  (as  has  been  already  admitted) 
would  be  that  he  might  be  an  odd  shape.  But 
there  is  another  explanation.  He  might  be 
the  right  shape.  Outrageously  tall  men  might 
feel  him  to  be  short.  Very  short  men  might 
feel  him  to  be  tall.  Old  bucks  who  are  growing 
stout  might  consider  him  insufficiently  filled 
out  ;  old  beaux  who  were  growing  thin  might 
feel  that  he  expanded  beyond  the  narrow  lines 
of  elegance.  Perhaps  Swedes  (who  have  pale 
hair  like  tow)  called  him  a  dark  man,  while 
negroes  considered  him  distinctly  blonde. 
Perhaps  (in  short)  this  extraordinary  thing  is 
really  the  ordinary  thing  ;  at  least  the  normal 
thing,  the  centre.  Perhaps,  after  all,  it  is  Chris- 
tianity that  is  sane  and  all  its  critics  that  are 
mad — in  various  ways.  I  tested  this  idea  by 
asking  myself  whether  there  was  about  any  of 
the  accusers  anything  morbid  that  might  explain 
the  accusation.  I  was  startled  to  find  that  this 
key  fitted  a  lock.  For  instance,  it  was  certainly 
odd  that  the  modern  world  charged  Christianity 
at  once  with  bodily  austerity  and  with  artistic 
pomp.  But  then  it  was  also  odd,  very  odd, 
that  the  modern  world  itself  combined  extreme 
bodily     luxury    with    an     extreme    absence   of 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

artistic  pomp.  The  modern  man  thought 
Beckct's  robes  too  rich  and  his  meals  too  poor. 
But  then  the  modern  man  was  really  exceptional 
in  history  ;  no  man  before  ever  ate  such  elabor- 
ate dinners  in  such  ugly  clothes.  The  modern 
man  found  the  church  too  simple  exactly  where 
modern  life  is  too  complex  ;  he  found  the 
church  too  gorgeous  exactly  where  modern 
life  is  too  dingy.  The  man  who  disliked  the 
plain  fasts  and  feasts  was  mad  on  entrees.  The 
man  who  disliked  vestments  wore  a  pair  of 
preposterous  trousers.  And  surely  if  there  was 
any  insanity  involved  in  the  matter  at  all  it  was 
in  the  trousers,  not  in  the  simply  falling  robe. 
If  there  was  any  insanity  at  all,  it  was  in  the 
extravagant  entrees,  not  in  the  bread  and  wine. 

I  went  over  all  the  cases,  and  I  found  the 
key  fitted  so  far.  The  fact  that  Swinburne  was 
irritated  at  the  unhappiness  of  Christians  and 
yet  more  irritated  at  their  happiness  was  easily 
explained.  It  was  no  longer  a  complication 
of  diseases  in  Christianity,  but  a  complication 
of  diseases  in  Swinburne.  The  restraints  of 
Christians  saddened  him  simply  because  he  was 
more  hedonist  than  a  healthy  man  should  be. 
The  faith  of  Christians  angered  him  because  he 
was  more  pessimist  than  a  healthy  man  should 
be.    In  the  same  way  the  Malthusians  by  instinct 



attacked  Christianity  ;  not  because  there  is  any- 
thing especially  anti-Malthusian  about  Christi- 
anity, but  because  there  is  something  a  little 
anti-human  about  Malthusianism. 

Nevertheless  it  could  not,  I  felt,  be  quite 
true  that  Christianity  was  merely  sensible  and 
stood  in  the  middle.  There  was  really  an 
element  in  it  of  emphasis  and  even  frenzy 
which  had  justified  the  secularists  in  their 
superficial  criticism.  It  might  be  wise,  I  began 
more  and  more  to  think  that  it  was  wise,  but  it 
was  not  merely  worldly  wise  ;  it  was  not  merely 
temperate  and  respectable.  Its  fierce  crusaders 
and  meek  saints  might  balance  each  other  ;  still, 
the  crusaders  were  very  fierce  and  the  saints  were 
very  meek,  meek  beyond  all  decency.  Now,  it 
was  just  at  this  point  of  the  speculation  that  I 
remembered  my  thoughts  about  the  martyr  and 
the  suicide.  In  that  matter  there  had  been  this 
combination  between  two  almost  insane  posi- 
tions which  yet  somehow  amounted  to  sanity. 
This  was  just  such  another  contradiction  ;  and 
this  I  had  already  found  to  be  true.  This  was 
exactly  one  of  the  paradoxes  in  which  sceptics 
found  the  creed  wrong  ;  and  in  this  I  had 
found  it  right.  Madly  as  Christians  might  love 
the  martyr  or  hate  the  suicide,  they  never  felt 
these  passions  more  madly  than  I  had  felt  them 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

long  before  I  dreamed  of  Christianity.  Then 
the  most  difficult  and  interesting  part  of  the 
mental  process  opened,  and  I  began  to  trace 
this  idea  darkly  through  all  the  enormous 
thoughts  of  our  theology.  The  idea  was  that 
which  I  had  outlined  touching  the  optimist  and 
the  pessimist  ;  that  we  want  not  an  amalgam  or 
compromise,  but  both  things  at  the  top  of  their 
energy  ;  love  and  wrath  both  burning.  Here 
I  shall  only  trace  it  in  relation  to  ethics.  But 
I  need  not  remind  the  reader  that  the  idea  of 
this  combination  is  indeed  central  in  orthodox 
theology.  For  orthodox  theology  has  specially 
insisted  that  Christ  was  not  a  being  apart  from 
God  and  man,  like  an  elf,  nor  yet  a  being  half 
human  and  half  not,  like  a  centaur,  but  both 
things  at  once  and  both  things  thoroughly, 
very  man  and  very  God.  Now  let  me  trace 
this  notion  as  I  found  it. 

All  sane  men  can  see  that  sanity  is  some 
kind  of  equilibrium  ;  that  one  may  be  mad  and 
eat  too  much,  or  mad  and  eat  too  little.  Some 
moderns  have  indeed  appeared  with  vague 
versions  of  progress  and  evolution  which  seeks 
to  destroy  the  [xecrov  or  balance  of  Aristotle. 
They  seem  to  suggest  that  we  are  meant  to 
starve  progressively,  or  to  go  on  eating  larger 
and  larger  breakfasts  every  morning  for  ever. 



But  the  great  truism  of  the  fiicrov  remains  for 
all  thinking  men,  and  these  people  have  not 
upset  any  balance  except  their  own.  But 
granted  that  we  have  all  to  keep  a  balance,  the 
real  interest  comes  in  with  the  question  of  how 
that  balance  can  be  kept.  That  was  the 
problem  which  Paganism  tried  to  solve  :  that 
was  the  problem  which  I  think  Christianity- 
solved  and  solved  in  a  very  strange  way. 

Paganism  declared  that  virtue  was  in  a 
balance ;  Christianity  declared  it  was  in  a 
conflict :  the  collision  of  two  passions  ap- 
parently opposite.  Of  course  they  were  not 
really  inconsistent ;  but  they  were  such  that  it 
was  hard  to  hold  simultaneously.  Let  us  follow 
for  a  moment  the  clue  of  the  martyr  and 
the  suicide  ;  and  take  the  case  of  courage. 
No  quality  has  ever  so  much  addled  the 
brains  and  tangled  the  definitions  of  merely 
rational  sages.  Courage  is  almost  a  contradic- 
tion in  terms.  It  means  a  strong  desire  to  live 
taking  the  form  of  a  readiness  to  die.  "  He 
that  will  lose  his  life,  the  same  shall  save  it," 
is  not  a  piece  of  mysticism  for  saints  and  heroes. 
It  is  a  piece  of  everyday  advice  for  sailors 
or  mountaineers.  It  might  be  printed  in  an 
Alpine  guide  or  a  drill  book.  This  paradox  is 
the  whole  principle  of  courage  ;  even  of  quite 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

earthly  or  quite  brutal  courage.  A  man  cut  off 
by  the  sea  may  save  his  life  if  he  will  risk  it  on 
the  precipice.  He  can  only  get  away  from 
death  by  continually  stepping  within  an  inch 
of  it.  A  soldier  surrounded  by  enemies,  if  he 
is  to  cut  his  way  out,  needs  to  combine  a  strong 
desire  for  living  with  a  strange  carelessness 
about  dying.  He  must  not  merely  cling  to 
life,  for  then  he  will  be  a  coward,  and  will  not 
escape.  He  must  not  merely  wait  for  death, 
for  then  he  will  be  a  suicide,  and  will  not 
escape.  He  must  seek  his  life  in  a  spirit  of 
furious  indifference  to  it  ;  he  must  desire  life 
like  water  and  yet  drink  death  like  wine.  No 
philosopher,  I  fancy,  has  ever  expressed  this 
romantic  riddle  with  adequate  lucidity,  and  I 
certainly  have  not  done  so.  But  Christianity 
has  done  more  :  it  has  marked  the  limits  of  it 
in  the  awful  graves  of  the  suicide  and  the  hero, 
showing  the  distance  between  him  who  dies  for 
the  sake  of  living  and  him  who  dies  for  the 
sake  of  dying.  And  it  has  held  up  ever  since 
above  the  European  lances  the  banner  of  the 
mystery  of  chivalry  :  the  Christian  courage, 
which  is  a  disdain  of  death  ;  not  the  Chinese 
courage,  which  is  a  disdain  of  life. 

And  now  I  began  to  find  that  this  duplex  pas- 
sion was  the  Christian  key  to  ethics  everywhere. 



Everywhere  the  creed  made  a  moderation  out 
of  the  still  crash  of  two  impetuous  emotions. 
Take,  for  instance,  the  matter  of  modesty, 
of  the  balance  between  mere  pride  and  mere 
prostration.  The  average  pagan,  like  the 
average  agnostic,  would  merely  say  that  he  was 
content  with  himself,  but  not  insolently  self- 
satisfied,  that  there  were  many  better  and  many 
worse,  that  his  deserts  were  limited,  but  he 
would  see  that  he  got  them.  In  short,  he 
would  walk  with  his  head  in  the  air  ;  but  not 
necessarily  with  his  nose  in  the  air.  This  is  a 
manly  and  rational  position,  but  it  is  open  to 
the  objection  we  noted  against  the  compromise 
between  optimism  and  pessimism — the  "  re- 
signation "  of  Matthew  Arnold.  Being  a 
mixture  of  two  things,  it  is  a  dilution  of  two 
things  ;  neither  is  present  in  its  full  strength  or 
contributes  its  full  colour.  This  proper  pride 
does  not  lift  the  heart  like  the  tongue  of 
trumpets  ;  you  cannot  go  clad  in  crimson  and 
gold  for  this.  On  the  other  hand,  this  mild 
rationalist  modesty  does  not  cleanse  the  soul 
with  lire  and  make  it  clear  like  crystal  ;  it  doe* 
not  (like  a  strict  and  searching  humility)  make 
a  man  as  a  little  child,  who  can  sit  at  the  feet  of 
the  grass.  It  does  not  make  him  look  up  and  see 
marvels  ;  for  Alice  must  grow  small  if  she  is  to 


Tlie  Paradox's  of  Christianity 

be  Alice  in  Wonderland.  Thus  it  loses  both 
the  poetry  of  being  proud  and  the  poetry  of 
being  humble.  Christianity  sought  by  this 
same  strange  expedient  to  save  both  of  them. 
It  separated  the  two  ideas  and  then  ex 
gerated  them  both.  In  one  way  Man  was  to 
be  haughtier  than  he  had  ever  been  before  ;  in 
another  way  he  was  to  be  humbler  than  he  had 
ever  been  before.  In  so  far  as  I  am  Man  I  am 
the  chief  of  creatures.  In  so  far  as  I  am  a  man 
I  am  the  chief  of  sinners.  All  humility  that 
had  meant  pessimism,  that  had  meant  man 
taking  a  vague  or .  mean  view  of  his  whole 
destiny — all  that  was  to  go.  We  were  to  hear 
no  more  the  wail  of  Ecclesiastes  that  humanity 
had  no  pre-eminence  over  the  brute,  or  the 
awful  cry  of  Homer  that  man  was  only  the 
saddest  of  all  the  beasts  of  the  field.  Man  was 
a  statue  of  God  walking  about  the  garden. 
Man  had  pre-eminence  over  all  the  brutes  ; 
man  was  only  sad  because  he  was  not  a  beast, 
but  a  broken  god.  The  Greek  had  spoken  of 
men  creeping  on  the  earth,  as  if  clinging  to  it. 
Now  Man  was  to  tread  on  the  earth  as  if  to  sub- 
due it.  Christianity  thus  held  a  thought  of  the 
dignity  of  man  that  could  only  be  expressed  in 
crowns  rayed  like  the  sun  and  fans  of  peacock 
plumage.     Yet  at  the  same  time  it  could  hold 



a  thought  about  the  abject  smallness  of  man 
that  could  only  be  expressed  in  fasting  and 
fantastic  submission,  in  the  grey  ashes  of  St. 
Dominic  and  the  white  snows  of  St.  Bernard. 
When  one  came  to  think  of  ones  self,  there  was 
vista  and  void  enough  for  any  amount  of  bleak 
abnegation  and  bitter  truth.  There  the  realistic 
gentleman  could  let  himself  go — as  long  as  he 
let  himself  go  at  himself.  There  was  an  open 
playground  for  the  happy  pessimist.  Let 
him  say  anything  against  himself  short  of 
blaspheming  the  original  aim  of  his  being  ;  let 
him  call  himself  a  fool  and  even  a  damned  fool 
(though  that  is  Calvinistic)  ;  but  he  must  not 
say  that  fools  are  not  worth  saving.  He  must 
not  say  that  a  man,  qud  man,  can  be  valueless. 
Here  again,  in  short,  Christianity  got  over  the 
difficulty  of  combining  furious  opposites,  by 
keeping  them  both,  and  keeping  them  both 
furious.  The  Church  was  positive  on  both 
points.  One  can  hardly  think  too  little  of 
one's  self.  One  can  hardly  think  too  much  of 
one's  soul. 

Take  another  case  :  the  complicated  question 
of  charity,  which  some  highly  uncharitable 
idealists  seem  to  think  quite  easy.  Charity  is 
a  paradox,  like  modesty  and  courage.  Stated 
baldly,    charity   certainly    means    one    of    two 


The    Paradaces  of  Christianity 

things — pardoning  unpardonable  acts,  or  loving 
unlovable  people.  But  if  we  ask  ourselves 
(as  we  did  in  the  case  of  pride)  what  a  sensible 
pagan  would  feel  about  such  a  subject,  we 
shall  probably  be  beginning  at  the  bottom 
of  it.  A  sensible  pagan  would  say  that  there 
were  some  people  one  could  forgive,  and  some 
one  couldn't :  a  slave  who  stole  wine  could  be 
laughed  at ;  a  slave  who  betrayed  his  bene- 
factor could  be  killed,  and  cursed  even  after 
he  was  killed.  In  so  far  as  the  act  was  pardon- 
able, the  man  was  pardonable.  That  again  is 
rational,  and  even  refreshing ;  but  it  is  a 
dilution.  It  leaves  no  place  for  a  pure  horror 
of  injustice,  such  as  that  which  is  a  great  beauty 
in  the  innocent.  And  it  leaves  no  place  for  a 
mere  tenderness  for  men  as  men,  such  as  is  the 
whole  fascination  of  the  charitable.  Christianity 
came  in  here  as  before.  It  came  in  startlingly 
with  a  sword,  and  clove  one  thing  from  another. 
It  divided  the  crime  from  the  criminal.  The 
criminal  we  must  forgive  unto  seventy  times 
seven.  The  crime  we  must  not  forgive  at  all. 
It  was  not  enough  that  slaves  who  stole  wine 
inspired  partly  anger  and  partly  kindness.  We 
must  be  much  more  angry  with  theft  than 
before,  and  yet  much  kinder  to  thieves  than 
before.     There  was  room  for  wrath   and   love 



to  run  wild.  And  the  more  I  considered 
Christianity,  the  more  I  found  that  while  it  had 
established  a  rule  and  order,  the  chief  aim  of 
that  order  was  to  give  room  for  good  things 
to  run  wild. 

Mental  and  emotional  liberty  are  not  so 
simple  as  they  look.  Really  they  require 
almost  as  careful  a  balance  of  laws  and  condi- 
tions as  do  social  and  political  liberty.  The 
ordinary  aesthetic  anarchist  who  sets  out  to 
feel  everything  freely  gets  knotted  at  last  in  a 
paradox  that  prevents  him  feeling  at  all.  He 
breaks  away  from  home  limits  to  follow  poetry. 
But  in  ceasing  to  feel  home  limits  he  has  ceased 
to  feel  the  "Odyssey."  He  is  free  from 
national  prejudices  and  outside  patriotism. 
But  being  outside  patriotism  he  is  outside 
"  Henry  V."  Such  a  literary  man  is  simply 
outside  all  literature  :  he  is  more  of  a  prisoner 
than  any  bigot.  For  if  there  is  a  wall  between 
you  and  the  world,  it  makes  little  difference 
whether  you  describe  yourself  as  locked  in  or 
as  locked  out.  What  we  want  is  not  the 
universality  that  is  outside  all  normal  senti- 
ments ;  we  want  the  universality  that  is  inside 
all  normal  sentiments.  It  is  all  the  difference 
between  being  free  from  them,  as  a  man  is  free 
from    a  prison,  and  being  free    of  them   as  a 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

man  is  free  of  a  city.  I  am  free  from  Windsor 
Castle  (that  is,  1  am  not  forcibly  detained 
there),  but  I  am  by  no  means  free  of  that 
building.  How  can  man  be  approximately 
free  of  fine  emotions,  able  to  swing  them 
in  a  clear  space  without  breakage  or  wrong  ? 
This  was  the  achievement  of  this  Christian 
paradox  of  the  parallel  passions.  Granted  the 
primary  dogma  of  the  war  between  divine 
and  diabolic,  the  revolt  and  ruin  of  the 
world,  their  optimism  and  pessimism,  as  pure 
poetry,  could  be  loosened  like  cataracts. 

St.  Francis,  in  praising  all  good,  could  be  a 
more  shouting  optimist  than  Walt  Whitman. 
St.  Jerome,  in  denouncing  all  evil,  could  paint 
the  world  blacker  than  Schopenhauer.  Both 
passions  were  free  because  both  were  kept  in 
their  place.  The  optimist  could  pour  out  all 
the  praise  he  liked  on  the  gay  music  of  the 
march,  the  golden  trumpets,  and  the  purple 
banners  going  into  battle.  But  he  must  not  call 
the  fight  needless.  The  pessimist  might  draw  as 
darkly  as  he  chose  the  sickening  marches  or  the 
sanguine  wounds.  But  he  must  not  call  the  fight 
hopeless.  So  it  was  with  all  the  other  moral 
problems,  with  pride,  with  protest,  and  with 
compassion.  By  defining  its  main  doctrine,  the 
Church   not  only  kept   seemingly  inconsistent 



things  side  by  side,  but,  what  was  more, 
allowed  them  to  break  out  in  a  sort  of  artistic 
violence  otherwise  possible  only  to  anarchists. 
Meekness  grew  more  dramatic  than  madness. 
Historic  Christianity  rose  into  a  high  and  strange 
coup  de  thiatre  of  morality — things  that  are  to 
virtue  what  the  crimes  of  Nero  are  to  vice. 
The  spirits  of  indignation  and  of  charity  took 
terrible  and  attractive  forms,  ranging  from  that 
monkish  fierceness  that  scourged  like  a  dog  the 
first  and  greatest  of  the  Plantagenets,  to  the  sub- 
lime pity  of  St.  Catherine,  who,  in  the  official 
shambles,  kissed  the  bloody  head  of  the  criminal. 
Poetry  could  be  acted  as  well  as  composed. 
This  heroic  and  monumental  manner  in  ethics 
has  entirely  vanished  with  supernatural  religion. 
They,  being  humble,  could  parade  themselves  ; 
but  we  are  too  proud  to  be  prominent.  Our 
ethical  teachers  write  reasonably  for  prison 
reform  ;  but  we  are  not  likely  to  see  Mr. 
Cadbury,  or  any  eminent  philanthropist,  go 
into  Reading  Gaol  and  embrace  the  strangled 
corpse  before  it  is  cast  into  the  quicklime. 
Our  ethical  teachers  write  mildly  against  the 
power  of  millionaires  ;  but  we  are  not  likely  to 
see  Mr.  Rockefeller,  or  any  modern  tyrant, 
publicly  whipped  in  Westminster  Abbey. 

Thus,  the  double  charges  of  the  secularists, 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

though  throwing  nothing  but  darkness  and 
confusion  on  themselves,  throw  a  real  light 
on  the  faith.  It  is  true  that  the  historic  Church 
has  at  once  emphasised  celibacy  and  emphasised 
the  family  ;  has  at  once  (if  one  may  put  it  so) 
been  fiercely  for  having  children  and  fiercely 
for  not  having  children.  It  has  kept  them 
side  by  side  like  two  strong  colours,  red  and 
white,  like  the  red  and  white  upon  the  shield 
of  St.  George.  It  has  always  had  a  healthy 
hatred  of  pink.  It  hates  that  combination  of 
two  colours  which  is  the  feeble  expedient  of 
the  philosophers.  It  hates  that  evolution 
of  black  into  white  which  is  tantamount  to 
a  dirty  grey.  In  fact,  the  whole  theory  of 
the  Church  on  virginity  might  be  symbolized 
in  the  statement  that  white  is  a  colour  :  not 
merely  the  absence  of  a  colour.  All  that  I  am 
urging  here  can  be  expressed  by  saying  that 
Christianity  sought  in  most  of  these  cases  to 
keep  two  colours  co-existent  but  pure.  It  is 
not  a  mixture  like  russet  or  purple  ;  it  is  rather 
like  a  shot  silk,  for  a  shot  silk  is  always  at  right 
angles,  and  is  in  the  pattern  of  the  cross. 

So  it  is  also,  of  course,  with  the  contradictory 
charges  of  the  anti-Christians  about  submission 
and  slaughter.  It  is  true  that  the  Church  told 
some  men  to  fight  and  others  not  to  fight  ;, 

177  G 


and  it  is  true  that  those  who  fought  were  like 
thunderbolts  and  those  who  did  not  fight  were  like 
statues.  All  this  simply  means  that  the  Church 
preferred  to  use  its  Supermen  and  to  use  its 
Tolstoyans.  There  must  be  some  good  in  the 
life  of  battle,  for  so  many  good  men  have 
enjoyed  being  soldiers.  There  must  be  some 
good  in  the  idea  of  non-resistance,  for  so  many 
good  men  seem  to  enjoy  being  Quakers. 
All  that  the  Church  did  (so  far  as  that  goes) 
was  to  prevent  either  of  these  good  things 
from  ousting  the  other.  They  existed  side 
by  side.  The  Tolstoyans,  having  all  the 
scruples  of  monks,  simply  became  monks. 
The  Quakers  became  a  club  instead  of  becoming 
a  sect.  Monks  said  all  that  Tolstoy  says ; 
they  poured  out  lucid  lamentations  about  the 
cruelty  of  battles  and  the  vanity  of  revenge. 
But  the  Tolstoyans  are  not  quite  right  enough 
to  run  the  whole  world  ;  and  in  the  ages  of 
faith  they  were  not  allowed  to  run  it.  The 
world  did  not  lose  the  last  charge  of  Sir  James 
Douglas  or  the  banner  of  Joan  the  Maid.  And 
sometimes  this  pure  gentleness  and  this  pure 
fierceness  met  and  justified  their  juncture ; 
the  paradox  of  all  the  prophets  was  fulfilled, 
and,  in  the  soul  of  St.  Louis,  the  lion  lay 
down  with    the    lamb.      But    remember   that 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

this  text  is  too  lightly  interpreted.  It  is 
constantly  assured,  especially  in  our  Tolstoyan 
tendencies,  that  when  the  lion  lies  down  with 
the  lamb  the  lion  becomes  lamb-like.  But  that 
is  brutal  annexation  and  imperialism  on  the 
part  of  the  lamb.  That  is  simply  the  lamb 
absorbing  the  lion  instead  of  the  lion  eating  the 
lamb.  The  real  problem  is — Can  the  lion  lie 
down  with  the  lamb  and  still  retain  his  royal 
ferocity  ?  That  is  the  problem  the  Church 
attempted  ;  that  is  the  miracle  she  achieved. 

This  is  what  I  have  called  guessing  the 
hidden  eccentricities  of  life.  This  is  knowing 
that  a  man's  heart  is  to  the  left  and  not  in  the 
middle.  This  is  knowing  not  only  that  the 
earth  is  round,  but  knowing  exactly  where  it  is 
flat.  Christian  doctrine  detected  the  oddities  of 
life.  It  not  only  discovered  the  law,  but  it 
foresaw  the  exceptions.  Those  underrate  Chris- 
tianity who  say  that  it  discovered  mercy  ;  any 
one  might  discover  mercy.  In  fact  every  one 
did.  But  to  discover  a  plan  for  being  merciful 
and  also  severe — that  was  to  anticipate  a  strange 
need  of  human  nature.  For  no  one  wants  to 
be  forgiven  for  a  big  sin  as  if  it  were  a  little  one. 
Any  one  might  say  that  we  should  be  neither 
quite  miserable  nor  quite  happy.  But  to  find 
out  how  far  one  may  be  quite  miserable  without 



making  it  impossible  to  be  quite  happy — 
that  was  a  discovery  in  psychology.  Any  one 
might  say,  "  Neither  swagger  nor  grovel  "  ;  and 
it  would  have  been  a  limit.  But  to  say,  "  Here 
you  can  swagger  and  there  you  can  grovel " — 
that  was  an  emancipation. 

This  was  the  big  fact  about  Christian  ethics  ; 
the  discovery  of  the  new  balance.  Paganism 
had  been  like  a  pillar  of  marble,  upright  because 
proportioned  with  symmetry.  Christianity  was 
like  a  huge  and  ragged  and  romantic  rock, 
which,  though  it  sways  on  its  pedestal  at  a 
touch,  yet,  because  its  exaggerated  excrescences 
exactly  balance  each  other,  is  enthroned  there 
for  a  thousand  years.  In  a  Gothic  cathedral 
the  columns  were  all  different,  but  they  were 
all  necessary.  Every  support  seemed  an  acci- 
dental and  fantastic  support  ;  every  buttress 
was  a  flying  buttress.  So  in  Christendom 
apparent  accidents  balanced.  Becket  wore  a 
hair  shirt  under  his  gold  and  crimson,  and 
there  is  much  to  be  said  for  the  combination  ; 
for  Becket  got  the  benefit  of  the  hair  shirt 
while  the  people  in  the  street  got  the  benefit  of 
the  crimson  and  gold.  It  is  at  least  better  than 
the  manner  of  the  modern  millionaire,  who  has 
the  black  and  the  drab  outwardly  for  others, 
and  the  gold  next  his  heart.     But  the  balance 

1 80 

The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

was     not    always     in     one    man's    body    as    in 
Becket's  ;    the    balance    was    often    distributed 
over  the  whole  body  of  Christendom.      Because 
a    man    prayed    and    fasted    on    the    Northern 
snows,   flowers    could   be   flung  at  his    festival 
in  the  Southern  cities  ;    and    because    fanatics 
drank    water    on     the     sands     of   Syria,    men 
could    still    drink    cider    in     the    orchards    of 
England.     This    is   what    makes    Christendom 
at  once  so  much  more  perplexing  and  so  much 
more  interesting  than  the  Pagan  empire  ;  just 
as   Amiens  Cathedral   is   not    better  but  more 
interesting  than  the  Parthenon.       If  any  one 
wants    a    modern    proof  of  all    this,    let    him 
consider  the  curious  fact  that,   under   Christi- 
anity, Europe    (while   remaining    a    unity)  has 
broken  up  into  individual  nations.     Patriotism 
is  a  perfect  example  of  this  deliberate  balancing 
of    one    emphasis    against    another    emphasis. 
The  instinct  of  the  Pagan  empire  would   have 
said,  "  You  shall   all  be   Roman  citizens,  and 
grow  alike  ;  let  the  German  grow  less  slow  and 
reverent ;    the    Frenchmen    less     experimental 
and    swift."       But   the    instinct    of    Christian 
Europe  says,  "  Let   the   German   remain  slow 
and   reverent,    that    the    Frenchman    may   the 
more   safely  be   swift  and   experimental.     We 
will  make  an  equipoise  out   of  these  excesses. 



The  absurdity  called  Germany  shall  correct  the 
insanity  called  France." 

Last  and  most  important,  it  is  exactly  this 
which  explains  what  is  so  inexplicable  to  all 
the  modern  critics  of  the  history  of  Christi- 
anity. I  mean  the  monstrous  wars  about  small 
points  of  theology,  the  earthquakes  of  emotion 
about  a  gesture  or  a  word.  It  was  only  a 
matter  of  an  inch  ;  but  an  inch  is  everything 
when  you  are  balancing.  The  Church  could 
not  afford  to  swerve  a  hair's  breadth  on  some 
things  if  she  was  to  continue  her  great  and 
daring  experiment  of  the  irregular  equilibrium. 
Once  let  one  idea  become  less  powerful  and 
some  other  idea  would  become  too  powerful. 
It  was  no  flock  of  sheep  the  Christian  shepherd 
was  leading,  but  a  herd  of  bulls  and  tigers,  of 
terrible  ideals  and  devouring  doctrines,  each 
one  of  them  strong  enough  to  turn  to  a  false 
religion  and  lay  waste  the  world.  Remember 
that  the  Church  went  in  specifically  for  dan- 
gerous ideas  ;  she  was  a  lion  tamer.  The  idea 
of  birth  through  a  Holy  Spirit,  of  the 
death  of  a  divine  being,  of  the  forgiveness 
of  sins,  or  the  fulfilment  of  prophecies,  are 
ideas  which,  any  one  can  see,  need  but  a 
touch  to  turn  them  into  something  blasphemous 
or  ferocious.     The  smallest  link  was  let  drop 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

by  the  artificers  of  the  Mediterranean,  and  the 
Hon  of  ancestral  pessimism  burst  his  chain  in 
the  forgotten  forests  of  the  north.  Of  these 
theological  equalisations  I  have  to  speak  after- 
wards. Here  it  is  enough  to  notice  that  if 
some  small  mistake  were  made  in  doctrine, 
huge  blunders  might  be  made  in  human 
happiness.  A  sentence  phrased  wrong  about 
the  nature  of  symbolism  would  have  broken 
all  the  best  statues  in  Europe.  A  slip  in  the 
definitions  might  stop  all  the  dances  ;  might 
wither  all  the  Christmas  trees  or  break  all  the 
Easter  eggs.  Doctrines  had  to  be  defined 
within  strict  limits,  even  in  order  that  man 
might  enjoy  general  human  liberties.  The 
Church  had  to  be  careful,  if  only  that  the 
world  might  be  careless. 

This  is  the  thrilling  romance  of  Orthodoxy. 
People  have  fallen  into  a  foolish  habit  of  speak- 
ing of  orthodoxy  as  something  heavy,  hum- 
drum, and  safe.  There  never  was  anything  so 
perilous  or  so  exciting  as  orthodoxy.  It  was 
sanity  :  and  to  be  sane  is  more  dramatic  than 
to  be  mad.  It  was  the  equilibrium  of  a  man 
behind  madly  rushing  horses,  seeming  to  stoop 
this  way  and  to  sway  that,  yet  in  every  attitude 
having  the  grace  of  statuary  and  the  accuracy  of 
arithmetic.     The  Church  in  its  early  days  went 



fierce  and  fast  with  any  warhorse  ;  yet  it  is 
utterly  unhistoric  to  say  that  she  merely  went 
mad  along  one  idea,  like  a  vulgar  fanaticism. 
She  swerved  to  left  and  right,  so  as  exactly  to 
avoid  enormous  obstacles.  She  left  on  one  hand 
the  huge  bulk  of  Arianism,  buttressed  by  all 
the  worldly  powers  to  make  Christianity  too 
worldly.  The  next  instant  she  was  swerving  to 
avoid  an  orientalism,  which  would  have  made  it 
too  unworldly.  The  orthodox  Church  never  took 
the  tame  course  or  accepted  the  conventions ; 
the  orthodox  Church  was  never  respectable.  It 
would  have  been  easier  to  have  accepted  the 
earthly  power  of  the  Arians.  It  would  have 
been  easy,  in  the  Calvinistic  seventeenth  century, 
to  fall  into  the  bottomless  pit  of  predestination. 
It  is  easy  to  be  a  madman  :  it  is  easy  to  be  a 
heretic.  It  is  always  easy  to  let  the  age  have 
its  head  ;  the  difficult  thing  is  to  keep  one's 
own.  It  is  always  easy  to  be  a  modernist ;  as 
it  is  easy  to  be  a  snob.  To  have  fallen  into  any 
of  those  open  traps  of  error  and  exaggeration 
which  fashion  after  fashion  and  sect  after  sect 
set  along  the  historic  path  of  Christendom — 
that  would  indeed  have  been  simple.  It  is 
always  simple  to  fall  ;  there  are  an  infinity  of 
angles  at  which  one  falls,  only  one  at  which 
one  stands.      To  have  fallen  into  any  one  of 


The  Paradoxes  of  Christianity 

the  fads  from  Gnosticism  to  Christian  Science 
would  indeed  have  been  obvious  and  tame. 
But  to  have  avoided  them  all  has  been  one 
whirling  adventure  ;  and  in  my  vision  the 
heavenly  chariot  flies  thundering  through  the 
ages,  the  dull  heresies  sprawling  and  prostrate* 
the  wild  truth  reeling  but  erect. 

t*S  s  2 

Chapter  VII— The  Eternal  Revolution 

THE  following  propositions  have  been 
urged  :  First,  that  some  faith  in 
our  life  is  required  even  to  im- 
prove it ;  second,  that  some  dis- 
satisfaction with  things  as  they  are  is  necessary 
even  in  order  to  be  satisfied  ;  third,  that  to  have 
this  necessary  content  and  necessary  discontent 
it  is  not  sufficient  to  have  the  obvious  equili- 
brium of  the  Stoic.  For  mere  resignation  has 
neither  the  gigantic  levity  of  pleasure  nor  the 
superb  intolerance  of  pain.  There  is  a  vital 
objection  to  the  advice  merely  to  grin  and  bear 
it.  The  objection  is  that  if  you  merely  bear  it, 
you  do  not  grin.  Greek  heroes  do  not  grin  ; 
but  gargoyles  do — because  they  are  Christian. 
And  when  a  Christian  is  pleased,  he  is  (in  the 
most  exact  sense)  frightfully  pleased  ;  his  plea- 
sure is  frightful.  Christ  prophesied  the  whole 
of  Gothic  architecture  in  that  hour  when  nervous 
and  respectable  people  (such  people  as  now  object 
to  barrel  organs)  objected  to  the  shouting  of  the 
gutter-snipes  of  Jerusalem.  He  said,  "  If  these 
were  silent,  the  very  stones  would  cry  out." 
Under  the  impulse  of  His  spirit  arose  like 
a  clamorous  chorus  the  facades  of  the  mediaeval 


Thv  Eternal  Revolution 

cathedrals,  thronged  with  shouting  faces  and 
open  mouths.  The  prophecy  has  fulfilled  itself: 
the  very  stones  cry  out. 

If  these  things  be  conceded,  though  only  for 
argument,  we  may  take  up  where  we  left  it  the 
thread  of  the  thought  of  the  natural  man,  called 
by  the  Scotch  (with  regrettable  familiarity), 
"  The  Old  Man."  We  can  ask  the  next  ques- 
tion so  obviously  in  front  of  us.  Some  satis- 
faction is  needed  even  to  make  things  better. 
But  what  do  we  mean  by  making  things  better  ? 
Most  modern  talk  on  this  matter  is  a  mere 
argument  in  a  circle — that  circle  which  we  have 
already  made  the  symbol  of  madness  and  of 
mere  rationalism.  Evolution  is  only  good  if  it 
produces  good  ;  good  is  only  good  if  it  helps 
evolution.  The  elephant  stands  on  the  tortoise, 
and  the  tortoise  on  the  elephant. 

Obviously,  it  will  not  do  to  take  our  ideal  from 
the  principle  in  nature  ;  for  the  simple  reason 
that  (except  for  some  human  or  divine  theory), 
there  is  no  principle  in  nature.  For  instance, 
the  cheap  anti-democrat  of  to-day  will  tell  you 
solemnly  that  there  is  no  equality  in  nature. 
He  is  right,  but  he  does  not  see  the  logical 
addendum.  There  is  no  equality  in  nature  ; 
also  there  is  no  inequality  in  nature.  Inequality, 
as  much  as  equality,  implies  a  standard  of  value. 



To  read  aristocracy  into  the  anarchy  of  animals  is 
just  as  sentimental  as  to  read  democracy  into  it. 
Both  aristocracy  and  democracy  are  human 
ideals  :  the  one  saying  that  all  men  are  valuable, 
the  other  that  some  men  are  more  valuable. 
But  nature  does  not  say  that  cats  are  more 
valuable  than  mice  ;  nature  makes  no  remark 
on  the  subject.  She  does  not  even  say  that  the 
cat  is  enviable  or  the  mouse  pitiable.  We  think 
the  cat  superior  because  we  have  (or  most  of  us 
have)  a  particular  philosophy  to  the  effect  that 
life  is  better  than  death.  But  if  the  mouse 
were  a  German  pessimist  mouse,  he  might  not 
think  that  the  cat  had  beaten  him  at  all.  He 
might  think  he  had  beaten  the  cat  by  getting  to 
the  grave  first.  Or  he  might  feel  that  he  had 
actually  inflicted  frightful  punishment  on  the 
cat  by  keeping  him  alive.  Just  as  a  microbe 
might  feel  proud  of  spreading  a  pestilence,  so 
the  pessimistic  mouse  might  exult  to  think 
that  he  was  renewing  in  the  cat  the  torture  of 
conscious  existence.  It  all  depends  on  the 
philosophy  of  the  mouse.  You  cannot  even 
say  that  there  is  victory  or  superiority  in  nature 
unless  you  have  some  doctrine  about  what 
things  are  superior.  You  cannot  even  say 
that  the  cat  scores  unless  there  is  a  system 
of  scoring.     You  cannot  even  say  that  the  cat 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

gets  the   best  of  it    unless   there   is   some   best 
to  be  got. 

We  cannot,  then,  get  the  ideal  itself  from 
nature,  and  as  we  follow  here  the  first  and 
natural  speculation,  we  will  leave  out  (for  the 
present)  the  idea  of  getting  it  from  God.  We 
must  have  our  own  vision.  But  the  attempts  of 
most  moderns  to  express  it  are  highly  vague. 

Some  fall  back  simply  on  the  clock  :  they 
talk  as  if  mere  passage  through  time  brought 
some  superiority  ;  so  that  even  a  man  of  the 
first  mental  calibre  carelessly  uses  the  phrase  that 
human  morality  is  never  up  to  date.  How  can 
anything  be  up  to  date  ?  a  date  has  no  character. 
How  can  one  say  that  Christmas  celebrations 
are  not  suitable  to  the  twenty-fifth  of  a  month  ? 
What  the  writer  meant,  of  course,  was  that  the 
majority  is  behind  his  favourite  minority — or  in 
front  of  it.  Other  vague  modern  people  take 
refuge  in  material  metaphors  ;  in  fact,  this  is 
the  chief  mark  of  vague  modern  people.  Not 
daring  to  define  their  doctrine  of  what  is  good, 
they  use  physical  figures  of  speech  without  stint 
or  shame,  and,  what  is  worst  of  all,  seem  to 
think  these  cheap  analogies  are  exquisitely 
spiritual  and  superior  to  the  old  morality. 
Thus  they  think  it  intellectual  to  talk  about 
things  being  "  high."     It  is4  at  least  the  reverse 



of  intellectual  ;  it  is  a  mere  phrase  from  a 
steeple  or  a  weathercock.  "Tommy  was  a 
good  boy  "  is  a  pure  philosophical  statement, 
worthy  of  Plato  or  Aquinas.  "Tommy  lived 
the  higher  life  '  is  a  gross  metaphor  from  a 
ten-foot  rule. 

This,  incidentally,  is  almost  the  whole  weak- 
ness of  Nietzsche,  whom  some  are  representing 
as  a  bold  and  strong  thinker.  No  one  will 
deny  that  he  was  a  poetical  and  suggestive 
thinker ;  but  he  was  quite  the  reverse  of  strong. 
He  was  not  at  all  bold.  He  never  put  his  own 
meaning  before  himself  in  bald  abstract  words  : 
as  did  Aristotle  and  Calvin,  and  even  Karl 
Marx,  the  hard,  fearless  men  of  thought. 
Nietzsche  always  escaped  a  question  by  a 
physical  metaphor,  like  a  cheery  minor  poet. 
He  said,  "  beyond  good  and  evil,"  because  he 
had  not  the  courage  to  say,  "  more  good  than 
good  and  evil,"  or,  "  more  evil  than  good  and 
evil."  Had  he  faced  his  thought  without 
metaphors,  he  would  have  seen  that  it  was 
nonsense.  So,  when  he  describes  his  hero,  he 
does  not  dare  to  say,  "  the  purer  man,"  or 
"  the  happier  man,"  or  "  the  sadder  man,"  for 
all  these  are  ideas  ;  and  ideas  are  alarming. 
He  says  "  the  upper  man,"  or  "  over  man,"  a 
physical    metaphor    from    acrobats    or    alpine 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

climbers.  Nietzsche  is  truly  a  very  timid 
thinker.  He  does  not  really  know  in  the  least 
what  sort  of  man  he  wants  evolution  to  produce. 
And  if  he  does  not  know,  certainly  the  ordinary 
evolutionists,  who  talk  about  things  being 
"  higher,"  do  not  know  either. 

Then  again,  some  people  fall  back  on  sheer 
submission  and  sitting  still.  Nature  is  going 
to  do  something  some  day  ;  nobody  knows 
what,  and  nobody  knows  when.  We  have  no 
reason  for  acting,  and  no  reason  for  not  acting. 
If  anything  happens  it  is  right :  if  anything  is 
prevented  it  was  wrong.  Again,  some  people 
try  to  anticipate  nature  by  doing  something,  by 
doing  anything.  Because  we  may  possibly 
grow  wings  they  cut  off  their  legs.  Yet  nature 
may  be  trying  to  make  them  centipedes  for  all 
they  know. 

Lastly,  there  is  a  fourth  class  of  people  who 
take  whatever  it  is  that  they  happen  to  want, 
and  say  that  that  is  the  ultimate  aim  of 
evolution.  And  these  are  the  only  sensible 
people.  This  is  the  only  really  healthy  way 
with  the  word  evolution,  to  work  for  what  you 
want,  and  to  call  that  evolution.  The  only 
intelligible  sense  that  progress  or  advance  can 
have  among  men,  is  that  we  have  a  definite 
vision,   and   that  we   wish  to  make  the  whole 



world  like  that  vision.  If  you  like  to  put  it  so, 
the  essence  of  the  doctrine  is  that  what  we 
have  around  us  is  the  mere  method  and  pre- 
paration for  something  that  we  have  to  create. 
This  is  not  a  world,  but  rather  the  materials 
for  a  world.  God  has  given  us  not  so  much 
the  colours  of  a  picture  as  the  colours  of  a 
palette.  But  He  has  also  given  us  a  subject,  a 
model,  a  fixed  vision.  We  must  be  clear  about 
what  we  want  to  paint.  This  adds  a  further 
principle  to  our  previous  list  of  principles. 
We  have  said  we  must  be  fond  of  this  world, 
even  in  order  to  change  it.  We  now  add  that 
we  must  be  fond  of  another  world  (real  or 
imaginary)  in  order  to  have  something  to 
change  it  to. 

We  need  not  debate  about  the  mere  words 
evolution  or  progress  :  personally  I  prefer  to 
call  it  reform.  For  reform  implies  form.  It 
implies  that  we  are  trying  to  shape  the  world 
in  a  particular  image  ;  to  make  it  something 
that  we  see  already  in  our  minds.  Evolution 
is  a  metaphor  from  mere  automatic  unrolling. 
Progress  is  a  metaphor  from  merely  walking 
along  a  road — very  likely  the  wrong  road.  But 
reform  is  a  metaphor  for  reasonable  and 
determined  men :  it  means  that  we  see  a 
certain    thing    out    of    shape    and    we    mean 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

to  put  it  into  shape.  And  we  know  what 

Now  here  comes  in  the  whole  collapse  and 
huge  blunder  of  our  age.  We  have  mixed  up 
two  different  things,  two  opposite  things.  Pro- 
gress should  mean  that  we  are  always  changing 
the  world  to  suit  the  vision.  Progress  does 
mean  (just  now)  that  we  are  always  changing 
the  vision.  It  should  mean  that  we  are  slow 
but  sure  in  bringing  justice  and  mercy  among 
men  :  it  does  mean  that  we  are  very  swift  in 
doubting  the  desirability  of  justice  and  mercy  : 
a  wild  page  from  any  Prussian  sophist  makes 
men  doubt  it.  Progress  should  mean  that  we 
are  always  walking  towards  the  New  Jerusalem. 
It  does  mean  that  the  New  Jerusalem  is  always 
walking  away  from  us.  We  are  not  altering 
the  real  to  suit  the  ideal.  We  are  altering  the 
ideal  :  it  is  easier. 

Silly  examples  are  always  simpler ;  let  us 
suppose  a  man  wanted  a  particular  kind  of 
world  ;  say,  a  blue  world.  He  would  have  no 
cause  to  complain  of  the  slightness  or  swiftness 
of  his  task  ;  he  might  toil  for  a  long  time  at 
the  transformation  ;  he  could  work  away  (in 
every  sense)  until  all  was  blue.  He  could  have 
heroic  adventures  ;  the  putting  of  the  last 
touches  to  a  blue  tiger.     He  could  have  fairy 



dreams  ;  the  dawn  of  a  blue  moon.  But  if  he 
worked  hard,  that  high-minded  reformer  would 
certainly  (from  his  own  point  of  view)  leave  the 
world  better  and  bluer  than  he  found  it.  If  he 
altered  a  blade  of  grass  to  his  favourite  colour 
every  day,  he  would  get  on  slowly.  But  if  he 
altered  his  favourite  colour  every  day,  he  would 
not  get  on  at  all.  If,  after  reading  a  fresh 
philosopher,  he  started  to  paint  everything  red 
or  yellow,  his  work  would  be  thrown  away  : 
there  would  be  nothing  to  show  except  a  few 
blue  tigers  walking  about,  specimens  of  his 
early  bad  manner.  This  is  exactly  the  position 
of  the  average  modern  thinker.  It  will  be  said 
that  this  is  avowedly  a  preposterous  example. 
But  it  is  literally  the  fact  of  recent  history. 
The  great  and  grave  changes  in  our  political 
civilization  all  belonged  to  the  early  nineteenth 
century,  not  to  the  later.  They  belonged  to  the 
black  and  white  epoch  when  men  believed 
fixedly  in  Toryism,  in  Protestantism,  in  Cal- 
vinism, in  Reform,  and  not  unfrequently  in 
Revolution.  And  whatever  each  man  believed 
in  he  hammered  at  steadily,  without  scepticism  : 
and  there  was  a  time  when  the  Established 
Church  might  have  fallen,  and  the  House  of 
Lords  nearly  fell.  It  was  because  Radicals  were 
wise  enough  to  be  constant  and  consistent ;  it 


The  Eternal   lie  rotation 

was  because   Radicals   were  wise  enough   to  bfc 
Conservative.      But  in   the   existing  atmosphere 
there  is  not  enough  time  and  tradition  in  Radi- 
calism to  pull  anything  down.    There  is  a  great 
deal  of  truth   in   Lord  Hugh  Cecil's  suggestion 
(made  in  a  fine  speech)  that  the  era  of  change  is 
over,  and  that  ours  is  an   era   of  conservation 
and  repose.     But  probably  it  would  pain  Lord 
Hugh  Cecil  if  he  realised  (what  is  certainly  the 
case)  that  ours   is  only  an   age  of  conservation 
because  it  is  an  age  of  complete  unbelief.     Let 
beliefs  fade    fast   and   frequently,    if  you  wish 
institutions  to  remain  the  same.    The  more  the 
life   of  the  mind   is   unhinged,   the    more   the 
machinery  of  matter  will  be  left  to  itself.     The 
net  result  of  all  our  political   suggestions,  Col- 
lectivism, Tolstoyanism,  Neo-Feudalism,  Com- 
munism, Anarchy,  Scientific  Bureaucracy — the 
plain  fruit  of  all  of  them  is  that  the  Monarchy 
and  the  House  of  Lords  will  remain.     The  net 
result  of  all  the  new  religions  will  be  that  the 
Church  of  England  will  not  (for  heaven  knows 
how   long)    be    disestablished.       It    was    Karl 
Marx,  Nietzsche,  Tolstoy,    Cunninghame  Gra- 
hame,  Bernard    Shaw   and    Auberon    Herbert, 
who  between  them,  with  bowed  gigantic  backs, 
bore    up    the     throne    of  the    Archbishop    of 



We  may  say  broadly  that  free  thought  is 
the  best  of  all  the  safeguards  against  freedom. 
Managed  in  a  modern  style  the  emancipation 
of  the  slave's  mind  is  the  best  way  of  pre- 
venting the  emancipation  of  the  slave.  Teach 
him  to  worry  about  whether  he  wants  to  be 
free,  and  he  will  not  free  himself.  Again,  it 
may  be  said  that  this  instance  is  remote  or 
extreme.  But,  again,  it  is  exactly  true  of  the 
men  in  the  streets  around  us.  It  is  true  that 
the  negro  slave,  being  a  debased  barbarian,  will 
probably  have  either  a  human  affection  of 
loyalty,  or  a  human  affection  for  liberty.  But 
the  man  we  see  every  day — the  worker  in 
Mr.  Gradgrind's  factory,  the  little  clerk  in  Mr. 
Gradgrind's  office — he  is  too  mentally  worried 
to  believe  in  freedom.  He  is  kept  quiet  with 
revolutionary  literature.  He  is  calmed  and 
kept  in  his  place  by  a  constant  succession  of 
wild  philosophies.  He  is  a  Marxian  one  day, 
a  Nietzscheite  the  next  day,  a  Superman  (prob- 
ably) the  next  day  ;  and  a  slave  every  day. 
The  only  thing  that  remains  after  all  the 
philosophies  is  the  factory.  The  only  man 
who  gains  by  all  the  philosophies  is  Gradgrind. 
It  would  be  worth  his  while  to  keep  his  com- 
mercial helotry  supplied  with  sceptical  litera- 
ture.     And  now   I    come   to    think  of  it,   of 


The   Eternal  Revolution 

course,  Gradgrind  is  famous  forgiving  libraries. 
He  shows  his  sense.  All  modern  books  arc 
on  his  side.  As  long  as  the  vision  of  heaven 
is  always  changing,  the  vision  of  earth  will  be 
exactly  the  same.  No  ideal  will  remain  long 
enough  to  be  realised,  or  even  partly  realised. 
The  modern  young  man  will  never  change 
his  environment  ;  for  he  will  always  change 
his  mind. 

This,  therefore,  is  our  first  requirement  about 
the  ideal  towards  which  progress  is  directed  ; 
it  must  be  fixed.  Whistler  used  to  make  many 
rapid  studies  of  a  sitter  ;  it  did  not  matter  if  he 
tore  up  twenty  portraits.  But  it  would  matter 
if  he  looked  up  twenty  times,  and  each  time 
saw  a  new  person  sitting  placidly  for  his  portrait. 
So  it  does  not  matter  (comparatively  speaking) 
how  often  humanity  fails  to  imitate  its  ideal  ; 
for  then  all  its  old  failures  are  fruitful.  But  it 
does  frightfully  matter  how  often  humanity 
changes  its  ideal ;  for  then  all  its  old  failures  are 
fruitless.  The  question  therefore  becomes  this  : 
How  can  we  keep  the  artist  discontented  with 
his  pictures  while  preventing  him  from  being 
vitally  discontented  with  his  art  ?  How  can  we 
make  a  man  always  dissatisfied  with  his  work, 
yet  always  satisfied  with  working  ?  How  can 
we   make  sure    that   the    portrait    painter  will 



throw  the  portrait  out  of  window  instead  of 
taking  the  natural  and  more  human  course  of 
throwing  the  sitter  out  of  window  ? 

A  strict  rule  is  not  only  necessary  for  ruling  ; 
it  is  also  necessary  for  rebelling.  This  fixed 
and  familiar  ideal  is  necessary  to  any  sort  of 
revolution.  Man  will  sometimes  act  slowly 
upon  new  ideas  ;  but  he  will  only  act  swiftly 
upon  old  ideas.  If  I  am  merely  to  float  or 
fade  or  evolve,  it  may  be  towards  something 
anarchic  ;  but  if  I  am  to  riot,  it  must  be  for 
something  respectable.  This  is  the  whole 
weakness  of  certain  schools  of  progress  and 
moral  evolution.  They  suggest  that  there  has 
been  a  slow  movement  towards  morality,  with 
an  imperceptible  ethical  change  in  every  year 
or  at  every  instant.  There  is  only  one  great 
disadvantage  in  this  theory.  It  talks  of  a  slow 
movement  towards  justice  ;  but  it  does  not 
permit  a  swift  movement.  A  man  is  not 
allowed  to  leap  up  and  declare  a  certain  state 
of  things  to  be  intrinsically  intolerable.  To 
make  the  matter  clear,  it  is  better  to  take  a 
specific  example.  Certain  of  the  idealistic 
vegetarians,  such  as  Mr.  Salt,  say  that  the  time 
has  now  come  for  eating  no  meat ;  by  implica- 
tion they  assume  that  at  one  time  it  was  right 
to  eat   meat,  and  they  suggest  (in  words  that 


The    Internal  Revolution 

could    be    quoted)  that    some    day    it    may  be 
wrong  to  eat  milk  and  eggs.      I  do  not  discuss 
here  the  question  of  what  is  justice  to  animals. 
I  only  say  that  whatever  is  justice  ought,  under 
given  conditions,  to  be  prompt  justice.      If  an 
animal   is  wronged,  we   ought    to   be   able    to 
rush  to  his  rescue.     But  how  can  we  rush  if  we 
are,  perhaps,  in  advance   of  our  time  ?     How 
can  we  rush   to  catch  a  train   which  may  not 
arrive  for  a  few  centuries  ?    How  can  I  denounce 
a  man  for  skinning  cats,  if  he  is  only  now  what 
I  may  possibly  become  in  drinking  a  glass  of 
milk  ?      A    splendid   and   insane  Russian   sect 
ran  about  taking  all  the  catde  out  of  all  the 
carts.      How  can  I  pluck  up  courage  to   take 
the  horse  out  of  my  hansom-cab,  when  I  do 
not   know  whether  my   evolutionary   watch  is 
only  a  little  fast  or  the  cabman's  a  little  slow  ? 
Suppose  I    say  to  a  sweater,  "Slavery   suited 
one    stage    of  evolution."      And    suppose    he 
answers,    "  And    sweating    suits    this    stage   of 
evolution."     How  can  I  answer  if  there  is  no 
eternal  test  ?      If  sweaters  can  be  behind  the 
current  morality,  why  should   not  philanthro- 
pists be  in  front  of  it  ?     What  on  earth  is  the 
current  morality,  except   in  its  literal   sense — 
the  morality  that  is  always  running  away  ? 
Thus  we  may  say  that  a  permanent  ideal  is 



as  necessary  to  the  innovator  as  to  the  conserva- 
tive ;  it  is  necessary  whether  we  wish  the  king's 
orders  to  be  promptly  executed  or  whether  we 
only  wish  the  king  to  be  promptly  executed. 
The  guillotine  has  many  sins,  but  to  do  it 
justice  there  is  nothing  evolutionary  about  it. 
The  favourite  evolutionary  argument  finds  its 
best  answer  in  the  axe.  The  Evolutionist  says, 
"  Where  do  you  draw  the  line  ? "  the  Revolu- 
tionist answers,  "  I  draw  it  here :  exactly 
between  your  head  and  body."  There  must 
at  any  given  moment  be  an  abstract  right  and 
wrong  if  any  blow  is  to  be  struck  ;  there  must 
be  something  eternal  if  there  is  to  be  anything 
sudden.  Therefore  for  all  intelligible  human 
purposes,  for  altering  things  or  for  keeping 
things  as  they  are,  for  founding  a  system  for 
ever,  as  in  China,  or  for  altering  it  every  month 
as  in  the  early  French  Revolution,  it  is  equally 
necessary  that  the  vision  should  be  a  fixed 
vision.     This  is  our  first  requirement. 

When  I  had  written  this  down,  1  felt  once 
again  the  presence  of  something  else  in  the  dis- 
cussion :  as  a  man  hears  a  church  bell  above 
the  sound  of  the  street.  Something  seemed  to 
be  saying,  "  My  ideal  at  least  is  fixed  ;  for  it 
was  fixed  before  the  foundations  of  the  world. 
My  vision  of  perfection  assuredly  cannot  be 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

altered  ;  for  it  is  called  Eden.  You  may  alter 
the  place  to  which  you  are  going  ;  but  you 
cannot  alter  the  place  from  which  you  have 
come.  To  the  orthodox  there  must  always  be 
a  case  for  revolution  ;  for  in  the  hearts  of  men 
God  has  been  put  under  the  feet  of  Satan.  In 
the  upper  world  hell  once  rebelled  against 
heaven.  But  in  this  world  heaven  is  rebelling 
against  hell.  For  the  orthodox  there  can  always 
be  a  revolution  ;  for  a  revolution  is  a  restora- 
tion. At  any  instant  you  may  strike  a  blow 
for  the  perfection  which  no  man  has  seen  since 
Adam.  No  unchanging  custom,  no  changing 
evolution  can  make  the  original  good  anything 
but  good.  Man  may  have  had  concubines  as 
long  as  cows  have  had  horns  :  still  they  are  not 
a  part  of  him  if  they  are  sinful.  Men  may 
have  been  under  oppression  ever  since  fish 
were  under  water ;  still  they  ought  not  to  be, 
if  oppression  is  sinful.  The  chain  may  seem 
as  natural  to  the  slave,  or  the  paint  to  the 
harlot,  as  does  the  plume  to  the  bird  or  the 
burrow  to  the  fox  ;  still  they  are  not,  if  they 
are  sinful.  I  lift  my  prehistoric  legend  to  defy 
all  your  history.  Your  vision  is  not  merely  a 
fixture  :  it  is  a  fact."  I  paused  to  note  the 
new  coincidence  of  Christianity  :  but  I  passed 



I  passed  on  to  the  next  necessity  of  any  ideal 
of  progress.  Some  people  (as  we  have  said) 
seem  to  believe  in  an  automatic  and  impersonal 
progress  in  the  nature  of  things.  But  it  is 
clear  that  no  political  activity  can  be  encouraged 
by  saying  that  progress  is  natural  and  in- 
evitable ;  that  is  not  a  reason  for  being  active, 
but  rather  a  reason  for  being  lazy.  If  we  are 
bound  to  improve,  we  need  not  trouble  to 
improve.  The  pure  doctrine  of  progress  is  the 
best  of  all  reasons  for  not  being  a  progressive. 
But  it  is  to  none  of  these  obvious  comments 
that  I  wish  primarily  to  call  attention. 

The  only  arresting  point  is  this :  that  if  we 
suppose  improvement  to  be  natural,  it  must  be 
fairly  simple.  The  world  might  conceivably  be 
working  towards  one  consummation,  but  hardly 
towards  any  particular  arrangement  of  many 
qualities.  To  take  our  original  simile  :  Nature 
by  herself  may  be  growing  more  blue  ;  that  is, 
a  process  so  simple  that  it  might  be  im- 
personal. But  Nature  cannot  be  making  a 
careful  picture  made  of  many  picked  colours, 
unless  Nature  is  personal.  If  the  end  of  the 
world  were  mere  darkness  or  mere  light  it 
might  come  as  slowly  and  inevitably  as  dusk  or 
dawn.  But  if  the  end  of  the  world  is  to  be  a 
piece  of  elaborate  and  artistic  chiaroscuro,  then 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

there  must  be  design  in  it,  either  human  or 
divine.  The  world,  through  mere  time,  might 
grow  black  like  an  old  picture,  or  white  like  an 
old  coat  ;  but  if  it  is  turned  into  a  particular 
piece  of  black  and  white  art — then  there  is  an 

If  the  distinction  be  not  evident,  I  give 
an  ordinary  instance.  We  constantly  hear  a 
,  particularly  cosmic  creed  from  the  modern 
humanitarians  ;  I  use  the  word  humanitarian 
in  the  ordinary  sense,  as  meaning  one  who 
upholds  the  claims  of  all  creatures  against  those 
of  humanity.  They  suggest  that  through  the 
ages  we  have  been  growing  more  and  more 
humane,  that  is  to  say,  that  one  after  another, 
groups  or  sections  of  beings,  slaves,  children, 
women,  cows,  or  what  not,  have  been  gradually 
admitted  to  mercy  or  to  justice.  They  say 
that  we  once  thought  it  right  to  eat  men  (we 
didn't)  ;  but  I  am  not  here  concerned  with  their 
history,  which  is  highly  unhistorical.  As  a 
fact,  anthropophagy  is  certainly  a  decadent 
thing,  not  a  primitive  one.  It  is  much  more 
likely  that  modern  men  will  eat  human  flesh 
out  of  affectation  than  that  primitive  man  ever 
ate  it  out  of  ignorance.  I  am  here  only 
following  the  outlines  of  their  argument,  which 
consists    in    maintaining    that    man    has    been 



progressively  more  lenient,  first  to  citizens,  then 
to  slaves,  then  to  animals,  and  then  (presumably) 
to  plants.  I  think  it  wrong  to  sit  on  a  man. 
Soon,  I  shall  think  it  wrong  to  sit  on  a  horse. 
Eventually  (I  suppose)  1  shall  think  it  wrong 
to  sit  on  a  chair.  That  is  the  drive  of  the 
argument.  And  for  this  argument  it  can  be 
said  that  it  is  possible  to  talk  of  it  in  terms  of 
evolution  or  inevitable  progress.  A  perpetual 
tendency  to  touch  fewer  and  fewer  things 
might,  one  feels,  be  a  mere  brute  unconscious 
tendency,  like  that  of  a  species  to  produce 
fewer  and  fewer  children.  This  drift  may  be 
really  evolutionary,  because  it  is  stupid. 

Darwinism  can  be  used  to  back  up  two  mad 
moralities,  but  it  cannot  be  used  to  back  up  a 
single  sane  one.  The  kinship  and  competition 
of  all  living  creatures  can  be  used  as  a  reason 
for  being  insanely  cruel  or  insanely  sentimental ; 
but  not  for  a  healthy  love  of  animals.  On  the 
evolutionary  basis  you  may  be  inhumane,  or  you 
may  be  absurdly  humane  ;  but  you  cannot  be 
human.  That  you  and  a  tiger  are  one  may  be 
a  reason  for  being  tender  to  a  tiger.  Or  it 
may  be  a  reason  for  being  as  cruel  as  the  tiger. 
It  is  one  way  to  train  the  tiger  to  imitate  you, 
it  is  a  shorter  way  to  imitate  the  tiger.  But  in 
neither  case   does  evolution   tell  you    how   to 


The  Eternal  lie  volution 

treat  a  tiger  reasonably,  that  is,  to  admire  his 
stripes  while  avoiding  his  claws. 

If  you  want  to  treat  a  tiger  reasonably, 
you  must  go  back  to  the  garden  of  Eden. 
For  the  obstinate  reminder  continued  to 
recur  :  only  the  supernatural  has  taken  a  sane 
view  of  Nature.  The  essence  of  all  pantheism, 
evolutionism,  and  modern  cosmic  religion  is 
really  in  this  proposition  :  that  Nature  is  our 
mother.  Unfortunately,  if  you  regard  Nature 
as  a  mother,  you  discover  that  she  is  a  step- 
mother. The  main  point  of  Christianity  was 
this  :  that  Nature  is  not  our  mother  :  Nature 
is  our  sister.  We  can  be  proud  of  her  beauty, 
since  we  have  the  same  father  ;  but  she  has 
no  authority  over  us  ;  we  have  to  admire,  but 
not  to  imitate.  This  gives  to  the  typically 
Christian  pleasure  in  this  earth  a  strange  touch 
of  lightness  that  is  almost  frivolity.  Nature 
was  a  solemn  mother  to  the  worshippers  of 
Isis  and  Cybele.  Nature  was  a  solemn  mother 
to  Wordsworth  or  to  Emerson.  But  Nature 
is  not  solemn  to  Francis  of  Assisi  or  to  George 
Herbert.  To  St.  Francis,  Nature  is  a  sister, 
and  even  a  younger  sister  :  a  little,  dancing 
sister,  to  be  laughed  at  as  well  as  loved. 

This,  however,  is  hardly  our  main  point  at 
present ;   I  have  admitted  it  only  in  order  to 



show  how  constantly,  and  as  it  were  acciden- 
tally, the  key  would  fit  the  smallest  doors. 
Our  main  point  is  here,  that  if  there  be  a 
mere  trend  of  impersonal  improvement  in 
Nature,  it  must  presumably  be  a  simple  trend 
towards  some  simple  triumph.  One  can 
imagine  that  some  automatic  tendency  in 
biology  might  work  for  giving  us  longer  and 
longer  noses.  But  the  question  is,  do  we  want 
to  have  longer  and  longer  noses  ?  I  fancy 
not ;  I  believe  that  we  most  of  us  want  to 
say  to  our  noses,  "  Thus  far,  and  no  farther  ; 
and  here  shall  thy  proud  point  be  stayed "  : 
we  require  a  nose  of  such  length  as  may  ensure 
an  interesting  face.  But  we  cannot  imagine 
a  mere  biological  trend  towards  producing 
interesting  faces  ;  because  an  interesting  face 
is  one  particular  arrangement  of  eyes,  nose, 
and  mouth,  in  a  most  complex  relation  to  each 
other.  Proportion  cannot  be  a  drift :  it  is 
either  an  accident  or  a  design.  So  with  the 
ideal  of  human  morality  and  its  relation  to  the 
humanitarians  and  the  anti-humanitarians.  It 
is  conceivable  that  we  are  going  more  and  more 
to  keep  our  hands  off  things  :  not  to  drive 
horses  ;  not  to  pick  flowers.  We  may  eventually 
be  bound  not  to  disturb  a  man's  mind  even  by 
argument ;  not  to   disturb   the  sleep   of  birds 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

even  by  coughing.  The  ultimate  apotheosis 
would  appear  to  be  that  of  a  man  sitting  quite 
still,  not  daring  to  stir  for  fear  of  disturbing  a 
fly,  nor  to  eat  for  fear  of  incommoding  a 
microbe.  To  so  crude  a  consummation  as  that 
we  might  perhaps  unconsciously  drift.  But  do 
we  want  so  crude  a  consummation  ?  Similarly, 
we  might  unconsciously  evolve  along  the 
opposite  or  Nietzscheian  line  of  development — 
superman  crushing  superman  in  one  tower  of 
tyrants  until  the  universe  is  smashed  up  for 
fun.  But  do  we  want  the  universe  smashed 
up  for  fun  ?  Is  it  not  quite  clear  that  what 
we  really  hope  for  is  one  particular  manage- 
ment and  proposition  of  these  two  things  ;  a 
certain  amount  of  restraint  and  respect,  a 
certain  amount  of  energy  and  mastery.  If  our 
life  is  ever  really  as  beautiful  as  a  fairy-tale, 
we  shall  have  to  remember  that  all  the  beauty 
of  a  fairy-tale  lies  in  this  :  that  the  prince  has 
a  wonder  which  just  stops  short  of  being  fear. 
If  he  is  afraid  of  the  giant,  there  is  an  end 
of  him  ;  but  also  if  he  is  not  astonished  at 
the  giant,  there  is  an  end  of  the  fairy-tale. 
The  whole  point  depends  upon  his  being  at 
once  humble  enough  to  wonder,  and  haughty 
enough  to  defy.  So  our  attitude  to  the  giant 
of  the  world   must  not  merely  be   increasing 



delicacy  or  increasing  contempt  :  it  must  be 
one  particular  proportion  of  the  two — which 
is  exactly  right.  We  must  have  in  us  enough 
reverence  for  all  thipgs  outside  us  to  make 
us  tread  fearfully  on  the  grass.  We  must  also 
have  enough  disdain  for  all  things  outside 
us,  to  make  us,  on  due  occasion,  spit  at  the 
stars.  Yet  these  two  things  (if  we  are  to  be 
good  or  happy)  must  be  combined,  not  in  any 
combination,  but  in  one  particular  combination. 
The  perfect  happiness  of  men  on  the  earth 
(if  it  ever  comes)  will  not  be  a  flat  and  solid 
thing,  like  the  satisfaction  of  animals.  It  will 
be  an  exact  and  perilous  balance  ;  like  that  of 
a  desperate  romance.  Man  must  have  just 
enough  faith  in  himself  to  have  adventures, 
and  just  enough  doubt  of  himself  to  enjoy 

This,  then,  is  our  second  requirement  for  the 
ideal  of  progress.  First,  it  must  be  fixed  ; 
second,  it  must  be  composite.  It  must  not 
(if  it  is  to  satisfy  our  souls)  be  the  mere  victory 
of  some  one  thing  swallowing  up  everything 
else,  love  or  pride  or  peace  or  adventure  ;  it 
must  be  a  definite  picture  composed  of  these 
elements  in  their  best  proportion  and  relation. 
I  am  not  concerned  at  this  moment  to  deny 
that  some  such  good  culmination  may  be,  by 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

the  constitution  of  things,  reserved  Tor  the 
human  race.  I  only  point  out  that  if  this  com- 
posite happiness  is  fixed  for  us  it  must  be  fixed 
by  some  mind  ;  for  only  a  mind  can  place  the 
exact  proportions  of  a  composite  happiness.  If 
the  beatification  of  the  world  is  a  mere  work  of 
nature,  then  it  must  be  as  simple  as  the  freezing 
of  the  world,  or  the  burning  up  of  the  world. 
But  if  the  beatification  of  the  world  is  not  a 
work  of  nature  but  a  work  of  art,  then  it 
involves  an  artist.  And  here  again  my  con- 
templation was  cloven  by  the  ancient  voice 
which  said,  "  I  could  have  told  you  all  this  a 
long  time  ago.  If  there  is  any  certain  progress 
it  can  only  be  my  kind  of  progress,  the  progress 
towards  a  complete  city  of  virtues  and  domina- 
tions where  righteousness  and  peace  contrive  to 
kiss  each  other.  An  impersonal  force  might 
be  leading  you  to  a  wilderness  of  perfect  flatness 
or  a  peak  of  perfect  height.  But  only  a  per- 
sonal God  can  possibly  be  leading  you  (if, 
indeed,  you  are  being  led)  to  a  city  with  just 
streets  and  architectural  proportions,  a  city  in 
which  each  of  you  can  contribute  exactly  the 
right  amount  of  your  own  colour  to  the  many- 
coloured  coat  of  Joseph." 

Twice  again,  therefore,  Christianity  had  come 
in  with   the  exact   answer   that  I   required.     I 

209  h 


had  said,  "  The  ideal  must  be  fixed,"  and  the 
Church  had  answered,  "  Mine  is  literally  fixed, 
for  it  existed  before  anything  else."  I  said 
secondly,  "  It  must  be  artistically  combined, 
like  a  picture "  ;  and  the  Church  answered, 
"  Mine  is  quite  literally  a  picture,  for  I  know 
who  painted  it."  Then  I  went  on  to  the  third 
thing,  which,  as  it  seemed  to  me,  was  needed 
for  an  Utopia  or  goal  of  progress.  And  of  all 
the  three  it  is  infinitely  the  hardest  to  express. 
Perhaps  it  might  be  put  thus  :  that  we  need 
watchfulness  even  in  Utopia,  lest  we  fall  from 
Utopia  as  we  fell  from  Eden. 

We  have  remarked  that  one  reason  offered 
for  being  a  progressive  is  that  things  naturally 
tend  to  grow  better.  But  the  only  real  reason 
for  being  a  progressive  is  that  things  naturally 
tend  to  grow  worse.  The  corruption  in  things 
is  not  only  the  best  argument  for  being  pro- 
gressive ;  it  is  also  the  only  argument  against 
being  conservative.  The  conservative  theory 
would  really  be  quite  sweeping  and  unanswer- 
able if  it  were  not  for  this  one  fact.  But  all 
conservatism  is  based  upon  the  idea  that  if  you 
leave  things  alone  you  leave  them  as  they  are. 
But  you  do  not.  If  you  leave  a  thing  alone 
you  leave  it  to  a  torrent  of  change.  If  you 
leave  a  white  post  alone  it  will  soon  be  a  black 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

post.  If  you  particularly  want  it  to  be  white 
you  must  be  always  painting  it  again  ;  that  is, 
you  must  be  always  having  a  revolution. 
Briefly,  if  you  want  the  old  white  post  you 
must  have  a  new  white  post.  But  this  which 
is  true  even  of  inanimate  things  is  in  a  quite 
special  and  terrible  sense  true  of  all  human 
things.  An  almost  unnatural  vigilance  is  really 
required  of  the  citizen  because  of  the  horrible 
rapidity  with  which  human  institutions  grow 
old.  It  is  the  custom  in  passing  romance  and 
journalism  to  talk  of  men  suffering  under  old 
tyrannies.  But,  as  a  fact,  men  have  almost 
always  suffered  under  new  tyrannies  ;  under 
tyrannies  that  had  been  public  liberties  hardly 
twenty  years  before.  Thus  England  went  mad 
with  joy  over  the  patriotic  monarchy  of  Eliza- 
beth ;  and  then  (almost  immediately  afterwards) 
went  mad  with  rage  in  the  trap  of  the  tyranny 
of  Charles  the  First.  So,  again,  in  France  the 
monarchy  became  intolerable,  not  just  after  it 
had  been  tolerated,  but  just  after  it  had  been 
adored.  The  son  of  Louis  the  well-beloved 
was  Louis  the  guillotined.  So  in  the  same 
way  in  England  in  the  nineteenth  century 
the  Radical  manufacturer  was  entirelv  trusted 
as  a  mere  tribune  of  the  people,  until  sud- 
denly we    heard   the  cry  of  the  Socialist   that 



he  was  a  tyrant  eating  the  people  like  bread. 
So  again,  we  have  almost  up  to  the  last 
instant  trusted  the  newspapers  as  organs  of 
public  opinion.  Just  recently  some  of  us  have 
seen  (not  slowly,  but  with  a  start)  that  they  are 
obviously  nothing  of  the  kind.  They  are,  by 
the  nature  of  the  case,  the  hobbies  of  a  few 
rich  men.  We  have  not  any  need  to  rebel 
against  antiquity ;  we  have  to  rebel  against 
novelty.  It  is  the  new  rulers,  the  capitalist  or 
the  editor,  who  really  hold  up  the  modern 
world.  There  is  no  fear  that  a  modern  king 
will  attempt  to  override  the  constitution  ;  it  is 
more  likely  that  he  will  ignore  the  constitution 
and  work  behind  its  back  ;  he  will  take  no 
advantage  of  his  kingly  power ;  it  is  more  likely 
that  he  will  take  advantage  of  his  kingly  power- 
lessness,  of  the  fact  that  he  is  free  from 
criticism  and  publicity.  For  the  king  is  the 
most  private  person  of  our  time.  It  will  not 
be  necessary  for  any  one  to  fight  again  against 
the  proposal  of  a  censorship  of  the  press.  We 
do  not  need  a  censorship  of  the  press.  We 
have  a  censorship  by  the  press. 

This  startling  swiftness  with  which  popular 
systems  turn  oppressive  is  the  third  fact  for 
which  we  shall  ask  our  perfect  theory  of 
progress  to  allow.     It  must  always  be  on  the 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

look  out  for  every  privilege  being  abused,  for 
every  working  right  becoming  a  wrong.  In 
this  matter  I  am  entirely  on  the  side  of  the 
revolutionists.  They  are  really  right  to  be 
always  suspecting  human  institutions  ;  they  are 
right  not  to  put  their  trust  in  princes  nor 
in  any  child  of  man.  The  chieftain  chosen  to 
be  the  friend  of  the  people  becomes  the  enemy 
of  the  people  ;  the  newspaper  started  to  tell  the 
truth  now  exists  to  prevent  the  truth  being 
told.  Here,  I  say,  I  felt  that  I  was  really  at 
last  on  the  side  of  the  revolutionary.  And  then 
I  caught  my  breath  again  :  for  I  remembered  that 
I  was  once  again  on  the  side  of  the  orthodox. 

Christianity  spoke  again  and  said,  "  I  have 
always  maintained  that  men  were  naturally 
backsliders  ;  that  human  virtue  tended  of  its 
own  nature  to  rust  or  to  rot ;  I  have  always 
said  that  human  beings  as  such  go  wrong, 
especially  happy  human  beings,  especially  proud 
and  prosperous  human  beings.  This  eternal 
revolution,  this  suspicion  sustained  through 
centuries,  you  (being  a  vague  modern)  call  the 
doctrine  of  progress.  If  you  were  a  philosopher 
you  would  call  it,  as  I  do,  the  doctrine  of 
original  sin.  You  may  call  it  the  cosmic 
advance  as  much  as  you  like  ;  1  call  it  what  it  is 
— the  Fall. 



I  have  spoken  of  orthodoxy  coming  in  like  a 
sword  ;  here  I  confess  it  came  in  like  a  battle- 
axe.  For  really  (when  I  came  to  think  of  it) 
Christianity  is  the  only  thing  left  that  has  any 
real  right  to  question  the  power  of  the  well- 
nurtured  or  the  well-bred.  I  have  listened 
often  enough  to  Socialists,  or  even  to  democrats, 
saying  that  the  physical  conditions  of  the  poor 
must  of  necessity  make  them  mentally  and 
morally  degraded.  I  have  listened  to  scientific 
men  (and  there  are  still  scientific  men  not  op- 
posed to  democracy)  saying  that  if  we  give  the 
poor  healthier  conditions  vice  and  wrong  will 
disappear.  I  have  listened  to  them  with  a 
horrible  attention,  with  a  hideous  fascination. 
For  it  was  like  watching  a  man  energetically 
sawing  from  the  tree  the  branch  he  is  sitting 
on.  If  these  happy  democrats  could  prove  their 
case,  they  would  strike  democracy  dead.  If  the 
poor  are  thus  utterly  demoralized,  it  may  or  may 
not  be  practical  to  raise  them.  But  it  is 
certainly  quite  practical  to  disfranchise  them. 
If  the  man  with  a  bad  bedroom  cannot 
give  a  good  vote,  then  the  first  and  swiftest 
deduction  is  that  he  shall  give  no  vote.  The 
governing  class  may  not  unreasonably  say, 
"  It  may  take  us  some  time  to  reform  his 
bedroom.     But  if  he  is  the  brute  you  say,  it 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

will  take  him  very  little  time  to  ruin  our 
country.  Therefore  we  will  take  your  hint 
and  not  give  him  the  chance."  It  fills  me  with 
horrible  amusement  to  observe  the  way  in 
which  the  earnest  Socialist  industriously  lays 
the  foundation  of  all  aristocracy,  expatiating 
blandly  upon  the  evident  unfitness  of  the  poor 
to  rule.  It  is  like  listening  to  somebody  at  an 
evening  party  apologising  for  entering  without 
evening  dress,  and  explaining  that  he  had 
recently  been  intoxicated,  had  a  personal  habit 
of  taking  off  his  clothes  in  the  street,  and  had, 
moreover,  only  just  changed  from  prison 
uniform.  At  any  moment,  one  feels,  the  host 
might  say  that  really,  if  it  was  as  bad  as  that, 
he  need  not  come  in  at  all.  So  it  is  when  the 
ordinary  Socialist,  with  a  beaming  face,  proves 
that  the  poor,  after  their  smashing  experiences, 
cannot  be  really  trustworthy.  At  any  moment 
the  rich  may  say,  "  Very  well,  then,  we  won't 
trust  them,"  and  bang  the  door  in  his  face. 
On  the  basis  of  Mr.  Blatchford's  view  of 
heredity  and  environment,  the  case  for  the 
aristocracy  is  quite  overwhelming.  If  clean 
homes  and  clean  air  make  clean  souls,  why  not 
give  the  power  (for  the  present  at  any  rate)  to 
those  who  undoubtedly  have  the  clean  air  ?  If 
better  conditions  will  make  the  poor  more  fit 



to  govern  themselves,  why  should  not  better 
conditions  already  make  the  rich  more  fit  to 
govern  them  ?  On  the  ordinary  environ- 
ment argument  the  matter  is  fairly  manifest. 
The  comfortable  class  must  be  merely  our 
vanguard  in  Utopia. 

Is  there  any  answer  to  the  proposition  that 
those  who  have  had  the  best  opportunities  will 
probably  be  our  best  guides  ?  Is  there  any 
answer  to  the  argument  that  those  who  have 
breathed  clean  air  had  better  decide  for  those 
who  have  breathed  foul  ?  As  far  as  I  know, 
there  is  only  one  answer,  and  that  answer  is 
Christianity.  Only  the  Christian  Church  can 
offer  any  rational  objection  to  a  complete 
confidence  in  the  rich.  For  she  has  maintained 
from  the  beginning  that  the  danger  was  not  in 
man's  environment,  but  in  man.  Further,  she 
has  maintained  that  if  we  come  to  talk  of  a 
dangerous  environment,  the  most  dangerous 
environment  of  all  is  the  commodious  environ- 
ment. I  know  that  the  most  modern  manu- 
facture has  been  really  occupied  in  trying  to 
produce  an  abnormally  large  needle.  I  know 
that  the  most  recent  biologists  have  been  chiefly 
anxious  to  discover  a  very  small  camel.  But  if 
we  diminish  the  camel  to  his  smallest,  or  open 
the  eye  of  the  needle  to  its  largest — if,  in  short, 


The  Ktcmal  Revolution 

we  assume  the  words  of  Christ  to  have   meant 
the  very  least  that  they  could  mean,  His  words 
must  at  the  very  least  mean  this — that  rich  men 
are  not  very  likely  to  be  morally  trustworthy. 
Christianity  even    when    watered   down    is   hot 
enough  to  boil  all  modern  society  to  rags.     The 
mere  minimum  of  the  Church  would  be  a  deadly 
ultimatum  to  the  world.     For  the  whole  modern 
world  is  absolutely  based  on  the  assumption,  not 
that  the  rich  are  necessary  (which  is  tenable), 
but  that  the  rich  are  trustworthy,  which  (for  a 
Christian)  is  not  tenable.      You  will  hear  ever- 
lastingly, in   all  discussions  about  newspapers, 
companies,  aristocracies,  or  party  politics,   this 
argument  that  the  rich  man  cannot  be  bribed. 
The  fact   is,   of  course,  that    the    rich  man  is 
bribed  ;   he  has  been  bribed  already.     That  is 
why    he  is  a  rich  man.     The   whole   case   for 
Christianity   is   that  a  man  who   is  dependent 
upon  the  luxuries  of  this  life  is  a  corrupt  man, 
spiritually  corrupt,  politically  corrupt,  financially 
corrupt.     There  is  one  thing  that  Christ  and  all 
the  Christian   saints   have  said   with  a  sort  of 
savage  monotony.     They  have  said  simply  that 
to  be  rich  is  to  be  in  peculiar  danger  of  moral 
wreck.     It  is  not  demonstrably  un-Christian  to 
kill  the  rich  as  violators  of  definable  justice.     It 
is  not  demonstrably  un-Christian  to  crown  the 

"7  h  2 


rich  as  convenient  rulers  of  society.  It  is  not 
certainly  un-Christian  to  rebel  against  the  rich 
or  to  submit  to  the  rich.  But  it  is  quite 
certainly  un-Christian  to  trust  the  rich,  to  regard 
the  rich  as  more  morally  safe  than  the  poor.  A 
Christian  may  consistently  say,  "  I  respect  that 
man's  rank,  although  he  takes  bribes."  But  a 
Christian  cannot  say,  as  all  modern  men  are 
saying  at  lunch  and  breakfast,  "  a  man  of  that 
rank  would  not  take  bribes."  For  it  is  a  part 
of  Christian  dogma  that  any  man  in  any  rank 
may  take  bribes.  It  is  a  part  of  Christian 
dogma  ;  it  also  happens  by  a  curious  coinci- 
dence that  it  is  a  part  of  obvious  human  history. 
When  people  say  that  a  man  "  in  that  position  " 
would  be  incorruptible,  there  is  no  need  to 
bring  Christianity  into  the  discussion.  Was 
Lord  Bacon  a  bootblack  ?  Was  the  Duke  of 
Marlborough  a  crossing  sweeper  ?  In  the  best 
Utopia,  I  must  be  prepared  for  the  moral  fall 
of  any  man  in  any  position  at  any  moment  ; 
especially  for  my  fall  from  my  position  at  this 

Much  vague  and  sentimental  journalism  has 
been  poured  out  to  the  effect  that  Christianity 
is  akin  to  democracy,  and  most  of  it  is  scarcely 
strong  or  clear  enough  to  refute  the  fact  that 
the  two  things  have  often  quarrelled.     The  real 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

ground  upon  which  Christianity  and  democracy 
arc  one  is  very  much  deeper.  The  one  spe- 
cially and  peculiarly  un-Christian  idea  is  the  idea 
of  Carlyle — the  idea  that  the  man  should  rule 
who  feels  that  he  can  rule.  Whatever  else  is 
Christian,  this  is  heathen.  If  our  faith  comments 
on  government  at  all,  its  comment  must  be 
this — that  the  man  should  rule  who  does  not 
think  that  he  can  rule.  Carlyle's  hero  may 
say,  "  I  will  be  king  "  ;  but  the  Christian  saint 
must  say,  "  Nolo  episcopari."  If  the  great 
paradox  of  Christianity  means  anything,  it 
means  this — that  we  must  take  the  crown  in 
our  hands,  and  go  hunting  in  dry  places  and 
dark  corners  of  the  earth  until  we  find  the  one 
man  who  feels  himself  unfit  to  wear  it.  Carlyle 
was  quite  wrong  ;  we  have  not  got  to  crown 
the  exceptional  man  who  knows  he  can  rule. 
Rather  we  must  crown  the  much  more  excep- 
tional man  who  knows  he  can't. 

Now,  this  is  one  of  the  two  or  three  vital 
defences  of  working  democracy.  The  mere 
machinery  of  voting  is  not  democracy,  though 
at  present  it  is  not  easy  to  effect  any  simpler 
democratic  method.  But  even  the  machinery 
of  voting  is  profoundly  Christian  in  this  prac- 
tical sense — that  it  is  an  attempt  to  get  at  the 
opinion  of  those  who  would  be  too  modest  to 



offer  it.  It  is  a  mystical  adventure  ;  it  is  spe- 
cially trusting  those  who  do  not  trust  themselves. 
That  enigma  is  strictly  peculiar  to  Christendom. 
There  is  nothing  really  humble  about  the  abne- 
gation of  the  Buddhist  ;  the  mild  Hindoo  is 
mild,  but  he  is  not  meek.  But  there  is  some- 
thing pyschologically  Christian  about  the  idea 
of  seeking  for  the  opinion  of  the  obscure  rather 
than  taking  the  obvious  course  of  accepting  the 
opinion  of  the  prominent.  To  say  that  voting 
is  particularly  Christian  may  seem  somewhat 
curious.  To  say  that  canvassing  is  Christian 
may  seem  quite  crazy.  But  canvassing  is  very 
Christian  in  its  primary  idea.  It  is  encouraging 
the  humble  ;  it  is  saying  to  the  modest  man, 
"  Friend,  go  up  higher."  Or  if  there  is  some 
slight  defect  in  canvassing,  that  is  in  its  perfect 
and  rounded  piety,  it  is  only  because  it  may 
possibly  neglect  to  encourage  the  modesty  of 
the  canvasser. 

Aristocracy  is  not  an  institution  :  aristocracy 
is  a  sin  ;  generally  a  very  venial  one.  It  is 
merely  the  drift  or  slide  of  men  into  a  sort  of 
natural  pomposity  and  praise  of  the  powerful, 
which  is  the  most  easy  and  obvious  affair  in  the 

It  is  one  of  the  hundred  answers  to  the 
fugitive    perversion    of  modern  "force"    that 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

the  promptest  and  boldest  agencies  are  also  the 
most  fragile  or  full  of  sensibility.  The  swiftest 
things  are  the  softest  things.  A  bird  is  active, 
because  a  bird  is  soft.  A  stone  is  helpless, 
because  a  stone  is  hard.  The  stone  must  by 
its  own  nature  go  downwards,  because  hardness 
is  weakness.  The  bird  can  of  its  nature  go 
upwards,  because  fragility  is  force.  In  perfect 
force  there  is  a  kind  of  frivolity,  an  airiness 
that  can  maintain  itself  in  the  air.  Modern 
investigators  of  miraculous  history  have  solemnly 
admitted  that  a  characteristic  of  the  great  saints 
is  their  power  of  "  levitation.,,  They  might 
go  further  ;  a  characteristic  of  the  great  saints 
is  their  power  of  levity.  Angels  can  fly  because 
they  can  take  themselves  lightly.  This  has 
been  always  the  instinct  of  Christendom,  and 
especially  the  instinct  of  Christian  art.  Re- 
member how  Fra  Angelico  represented  all  his 
angels,  not  only  as  birds,  but  almost  as  butter- 
flies. Remember  how  the  most  earnest  mediaeval 
art  was  full  of  light  and  fluttering  draperies,  of 
quick  and  capering  feet.  It  was  the  one  thing 
that  the  modern  Pre-raphaelites  could  not 
imitate  in  the  real  Pre-raphaelites.  Burne- 
Jones  could  never  recover  the  deep  levity  of 
the  Middle  Ages.  In  the  old  Christian  pictures 
the  sky  over  every  figure  is  like  a  blue  or  gold 



parachute.  Every  figure  seems  ready  to  fly  up 
and  float  about  in  the  heavens.  The  tattered 
cloak  of  the  beggar  will  bear  him  up  like  the 
rayed  plumes  of  the  angels.  But  the  kings 
in  their  heavy  gold  and  the  proud  in  their 
robes  of  purple  will  all  of  their  nature  sink 
downwards,  for  pride  cannot  rise  to  levity  or 
levitation.  Pride  is  the  downward  drag  of  all 
things  into  an  easy  solemnity.  One  "  settles 
down  "  into  a  sort  of  selfish  seriousness  ;  but 
one  has  to  rise  to  a  gay  self-forgetfulness.  A 
man  "  falls "  into  a  brown  study  ;  he  reaches 
up  at  a  blue  sky.  Seriousness  is  not  a  virtue. 
It  would  be  a  heresy,  but  a  much  more  sensible 
heresy,  to  say  that  seriousness  is  a  vice.  It  is 
really  a  natural  trend  or  lapse  into  taking  one's 
self  gravely,  because  it  is  the  easiest  thing  to 
do.  It  is  much  easier  to  write  a  good  Times 
leading  article  than  a  good  joke  in  Punch.  For 
solemnity  flows  out  of  men  naturally  ;  but 
laughter  is  a  leap.  It  is  easy  to  be  heavy  : 
hard  to  be  light.  Satan  fell  by  the  force  of 

Now,  it  is  the  peculiar  honour  of  Europe 
since  it  has  been  Christian  that  while  it  has 
had  aristocracy  it  has  always  at  the  back  of 
its  heart  treated  aristocracy  as  a  weakness — 
generally  as  a  weakness  that  must  be  allowed 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

for.  If  any  one  wishes  to  appreciate  this 
point,  let  him  go  outside  Christianity  into 
some  other  philosophical  atmosphere.  Let 
him,  for  instance,  compare  the  classes  of 
Europe  with  the  castes  of  India.  There 
aristocracy  is  far  more  awful,  because  it  is 
far  more  intellectual.  It  is  seriously  felt 
that  the  scale  of  classes  is  a  scale  of  spiritual 
values  ;  that  the  baker  is  better  than  the 
butcher  in  an  invisible  and  sacred  sense. 
But  no  Christianity,  not  even  the  most 
ignorant  or  perverse,  ever  suggested  that  a 
baronet  was  better  than  a  butcher  in  that 
sacred  sense.  No  Christianity,  however 
ignorant  or  extravagant,  ever  suggested  that 
a  duke  would  not  be  damned.  In  pagan 
society  there  may  have  been  (I  do  not  know) 
some  such  serious  division  between  the  free 
man  and  the  slave.  But  in  Christian  society 
we  have  always  thought  the  gentleman  a  sort 
of  joke,  though  I  admit  that  in  some  great 
crusades  and  councils  he  earned  the  right  to 
be  called  a  practical  joke.  But  we  in  Europe 
never  really  and  at  the  root  of  our  souls  took 
aristocracy  seriously.  It  is  only  an  occasional 
non-European  alien  (such  as  Dr.  Oscar  Levy, 
the  only  intelligent  Nietzscheite)  who  can  even 
manage    for    a    moment    to    take    aristocracy 



seriously.  It  may  be  a  mere  patriotic  bias, 
though  I  do  not  think  so,  but  it  seems  to 
me  that  the  English  aristocracy  is  not  only  the 
type,  but  is  the  crown  and  flower  of  all  actual 
aristocracies  ;  it  has  all  the  oligarchical  virtues 
as  well  as  all  the  defects.  It  is  casual,  it  is 
kind,  it  is  courageous  in  obvious  matters  ;  but 
it  has  one  great  merit  that  overlaps  even  these. 
The  great  and  very  obvious  merit  of  the  English 
aristocracy  is  that  nobody  could  possibly  take  it 

In  short,  I  had  spelled  out  slowly,  as  usual, 
the  need  for  an  equal  law  in  Utopia  ;  and,  as 
usual,  I  found  that  Christianity  had  been  there 
before  me.  The  whole  history  of  my  Utopia 
has  the  same  amusing  sadness.  I  was  always 
rushing  out  of  my  architectural  study  with 
plans  for  a  new  turret  only  to  find  it  sitting  up 
there  in  the  sunlight,  shining,  and  a  thousand 
years  old.  For  me,  in  the  ancient  and  partly  in 
the  modern  sense,  God  answered  the  prayer, 
"  Prevent  us,  O  Lord,  in  all  our  doings." 
Without  vanity,  I  really  think  there  was  a 
moment  when  I  could  have  invented  the 
marriage  vow  (as  an  institution)  out  of  my  own 
head  ;  but  I  discovered,  with  a  sigh,  that  it  had 
been  invented  already.  But,  since  it  would  be 
too  long  a  business  to  show  how,  fact  by  fact 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

and  inch  by  inch,  my  own  conception  of  Utopia 
was  only  answered  in  the  New  Jerusalem,  I 
will  take  this  one  case  of  the  matter  of  marriage 
as  indicating  the  converging  drift,  I  may  say 
the  converging  crash  of  all  the  rest. 

When  the  ordinary  opponents  of  Socialism 
talk    about    impossibilities     and    alterations    in 
human  nature   they  always  miss  an   important 
distinction.       In    modern    ideal   conceptions    of 
society  there  are  some  desires  that  are  possibly 
not  attainable  :  but  there  are  some  desires  that 
are  not  desirable.     That  all  men  should  live  in 
equally  beautiful  houses  is  a  dream  that  may  or 
may  not  be  attained.     But  that  all  men  should 
live  in  the  same  beautiful  house  is  not  a  dream 
at  all  ;  it  is  a  nightmare.      That  a  man  should 
love  all  old  women  is  an  ideal  that  may  not  be 
attainable.     But  that  a  man  should  regard  all 
old  women  exactly  as  he  regards  his  mother  is 
not   only  an   unattainable    ideal,   but  an   ideal 
which   ought  not  to    be   attained.      I   do   not 
know  if  the  reader  agrees   with   me   in   these 
examples  ;    but  I  will  add  the  example  which 
has  always  affected   me  most.     I   could  never 
conceive  or  tolerate  any  Utopia  which  did  not 
leave  to  me  the  liberty  for  which  I  chiefly  care, 
the  liberty  to  bind  myself.     Complete  anarchy 
would  not  merely  make  it  impossible  to  have 



any  discipline  or  fidelity  ;  it  would  also  make 
it  impossible  to  have  any  fun.  To  take  an 
obvious  instance,  it  would  not  be  worth  while 
to  bet  if  a  bet  were  not  binding.  The  dissolu- 
tion of  all  contracts  would  not  only  ruin 
morality  but  spoil  sport.  Now  betting  and 
such  sports  are  only  the  stunted  and  twisted 
shapes  of  the  original  instinct  of  man  for 
adventure  and  romance,  of  which  much  has 
been  said  in  these  pages.  And  the  perils, 
rewards,  punishments,  and  fulfilments  of  an 
adventure  must  be  real,  or  the  adventure  is 
only  a  shifting  and  heartless  nightmare.  If  I 
bet  I  must  be  made  to  pay,  or  there  is  no  poetry 
in  betting.  If  I  challenge  I  must  be  made  to 
fight,  or  there  is  no  poetry  in  challenging.  If 
I  vow  to  be  faithful  I  must  be  cursed  when  I 
am  unfaithful,  or  there  is  no  fun  in  vowing. 
You  could  not  even  make  a  fairy  tale  from  the 
experiences  of  a  man  who,  when  he  was 
swallowed  by  a  whale,  might  find  himself  at 
the  top  of  the  Eiffel  Tower,  or  when  he  was 
turned  into  a  frog  might  begin  to  behave  like  a 
flamingo.  For  the  purpose  even  of  the  wildest 
romance,  results  must  be  real  ;  results  must  be 
irrevocable.  Christian  marriage  is  the  great 
example  of  a  real  and  irrevocable  result  ;  and 
that  is  why  it  is  the  chief  subject  and  centre  of 


The  Eternal  Revolution 

all  our  romantic  writing.  And  this  is  my  last 
instance  of  the  things  that  I  should  ask,  and  ask 
imperatively,  of  any  social  paradise  ;  I  should 
ask  to  be  kept  to  my  bargain,  to  have  my  oaths 
and  engagements  taken  seriously  ;  I  should  ask 
Utopia  to  avenge  my  honour  on  myself. 

All  my  modern  Utopian  friends  look  at  each 
other  rather  doubtfully,  for  their  ultimate  hope 
is  the  dissolution  of  all  special  ties.  But  again 
I  seem  to  hear,  like  a  kind  of  echo,  an  answer 
from  beyond  the  world.  "  You  will  have  real 
obligations,  and  therefore  real  adventures  when 
you  get  to  my  Utopia.  But  the  hardest 
obligation  and  the  steepest  adventure  is  to  get 


Chapter  VIII — The  Romance  of  Ortho- 

IT  is  customary  to  complain  of  the  bustle 
and  strenuousness  of  our  epoch.  But 
in  truth  the  chief  mark  of  our  epoch  is  i 
profound  laziness  and  fatigue  ;  and  the 
fact  is  that  the  real  laziness  is  the  cause  of  the 
apparent  bustle.  Take  one  quite  external  case  ; 
the  streets  are  noisy  with  taxicabs  and  motor- 
cars ;  but  this  is  not  due  to  human  activity  but 
to  human  repose.  There  would  be  less  bustle 
if  there  were  more  activity,  if  people  were 
simply  walking  about.  Our  world  would  be 
more  silent  if  it  were  more  strenuous.  And 
this  which  is  true  of  the  apparent  physical 
bustle  is  true  also  of  the  apparent  bustle  of  the 
intellect.  Most  of  the  machinery  of  modern 
language  is  labour-saving  machinery ;  and  it 
saves  mental  labour  very  much  more  than  it 
ought.  Scientific  phrases  are  used  like  scientific 
wheels  and  piston-rods  to  make  swifter  and 
smoother  yet  the  path  of  the  comfortable. 
Long  words  go  rattling  by  us  like  long  railway 
trains.  We  know  they  are  carrying  thousands 
who  are  too  tired  or  too  indolent  to  walk  and 
think  for  themselves.     It  is  a  good  exercise  to 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

try  for  once  in  a  way  to  express  any  opinion 
one  holds  in  words  of  one  syllable.  If  you 
say  "  The  social  utility  of  the  indeterminate 
sentence  is  recognised  by  all  criminologists  as  a 
part  of  our  sociological  evolution  towards  a  more 
humane  and  scientific  view  of  punishment,"  you 
can  go  on  talking  like  that  for  hours  with 
hardly  a  movement  of  the  grey  matter  inside 
your  skull.  But  if  you  begin  "  I  wish  Jones  to 
go  to  gaol  and  Brown  to  say  when  Jones  shall 
come  out,''  you  will  discover,  with  a  thrill  of 
horror,  that  you  are  obliged  to  think.  The 
long  words  are  not  the  hard  words,  it  is  the 
short  words  that  are  hard.  There  is  much 
more  metaphysical  subtlety  in  the  word  "damn" 
than  in  the  word  "  degeneration." 

But  these  long  comfortable  words  that  save 
modern  people  the  toil  of  reasoning  have  one 
particular  aspect  in  which  they  are  especially 
ruinous  and  confusing.  This  difficulty  occurs 
when  the  same  long  word  is  used  in  different 
connections  to  mean  quite  different  things. 
Thus,  to  take  a  well-known  instance,  the  word 
"  idealist r  has  one  meaning  as  a  piece  of 
philosophy  and  quite  another  as  a  piece  of 
moral  rhetoric.  In  the  same  way  the  scientific 
materialists  have  had  just  reason  to  complain 
of  people  mixing  up  "  materialist "  as  a  term  of 



cosmology  with  cc  materialist "  as  a  moral  taunt. 
So,  to  take  a  cheaper  instance,  the  man  who 
hates  "  progressives "  in  London  always  calls 
himself  a  "  progressive  "  in  South  Africa. 

A  confusion  quite  as  unmeaning  as  this  has 
arisen  in  connection  with  the  word  "  liberal  " 
as  applied  to  religion  and  as  applied  to 
politics  and  society.  It  is  often  suggested 
that  all  Liberals  ought  to  be  freethinkers, 
because  they  ought  to  love  everything  that 
is  free.  You  might  just  as  well  say  tha»t 
all  idealists  ought  to  be  High  Churchmen, 
because  they  ought  to  love  everything  that,,  is 
high.  You  might  as  well  say  that  Low  Church- 
men ought  to  like  Low  Mass,  or  that  Broad 
Churchmen  ought  to  like  broad  jokes.  The 
thing  is  a  mere  accident  of  words.  In  actual 
modern  Europe  a  free-thinker  does  not  mean 
a  man  who  thinks  for  himself.  It  means  a 
man  who,  having  thought  for  himself,  has  come 
to  one  particular  class  of  conclusions,  the 
material  origin  of  phenomena,  the  impossibility 
of  miracles,  the  improbability  of  personal  im- 
mortality and  so  on.  And  none  of  these  ideas 
are  particularly  liberal.  Nay,  indeed  almost  all 
these  ideas  are  definitely  illiberal,  as  it  is  the 
purpose  of  this  chapter  to  show. 

In  the  few  following  pages  I  propose  to  point 


The   Romance  of  Orthodox;/ 

out  as  rapidly  as  possible  that  on  every  single 
one  of  the  matters  most  strongly  insisted  on 
by  liberalisers  of  theology  their  effect  upon 
social  practice  would  be  definitely  illiberal. 
Almost  every  contemporary  proposal  to  bring 
freedom  into  the  church  is  simply  a  proposal 
to  bring  tyranny  into  the  world.  For  freeing 
the  church  now  does  not  even  mean  freeing 
it  in  all  directions.  It  means  freeing  that 
peculiar  set  of  dogmas  loosely  called  scientific, 
dogmas  of  monism,  of  pantheism,  or  of 
Arianism,  or  of  necessity.  And  every  one  of 
these  (and  we  will  take  them  one  by  one)  can 
be  shown  to  be  the  natural  ally  of  oppression. 
In  fact,  it  is  a  remarkable  circumstance  (indeed 
not  so  very  remarkable  when  one  comes  to 
think  of  it)  that  most  things  are  the  allies  of 
oppression.  There  is  only  one  thing  that  can 
never  go  past  a  certain  point  in  its  alliance  with 
oppression — and  that  is  orthodoxy.  I  may,  it 
is  true,  twist  orthodoxy  so  as  partly  to  justify  a 
tyrant.  But  I  can  easily  make  up  a  German 
philosophy  to  justify  him  entirely. 

Now  let  us  take  in  order  the  innovations 
that  are  the  notes  of  the  new  theology  or  the 
modernist  church.  We  concluded  the  last 
chapter  with  the  discovery  of  one  of  them. 
The   very  doctrine  which   is   called    the    most 



old-fashioned  was  found  to  be  the  only  safeguard 
of  the  new  democracies  of  the  earth.  The 
doctrine  seemingly  most  unpopular  was  found 
to  be  the  only  strength  of  the  people.  In  short, 
we  found  that  the  only  logical  negation  of 
oligarchy  was  in  the  affirmation  of  original 
sin.  So  it  is,  I  maintain,  in  all  the  other 

I  take  the  most  obvious  instance  first,  the 
case  of  miracles.  For  some  extraordinary 
reason,  there  is  a  fixed  notion  that  it  is  more 
liberal  to  disbelieve  in  miracles  than  to  believe 
in  them.  Why,  I  cannot  imagine,  nor  can 
anybody  tell  me.  For  some  inconceivable 
cause  a  "  broad "  or  w  liberal "  clergyman 
always  means  a  man  who  wishes  at  least  to 
diminish  the  number  of  miracles  ;  it  never 
means  a  man  who  wishes  to  increase  that 
number.  It  always  means  a  man  who  is  free 
to  disbelieve  that  Christ  came  out  of  His 
grave  ;  it  never  means  a  man  who  is  free 
to  believe  that  his  own  aunt  came  out  of  her 
grave.  It  is  common  to  find  trouble  in  a 
parish  because  the  parish  priest  cannot  admit 
that  St.  Peter  walked  on  water  ;  yet  how  rarely 
do  we  find  trouble  in  a  parish  because  the 
clergyman  says  that  his  father  walked  on  the 
Serpentine  ?     And    this    is    not    because    (as 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

the  swift  secularist  debater  would  immediately 
retort)  miracles  cannot  be  believed  in  our 
experience.  It  is  not  because  "  miracles  do 
not  happen,"  as  in  the  dogma  which  Matthew 
Arnold  recited  with  simple  faith.  More  super- 
natural things  are  alleged  to  have  happened  in 
our  time  than  would  have  been  possible  eighty 
years  ago.  Men  of  science  believe  in  such 
marvels  much  more  than  they  did  :  the  most 
perplexing,  and  even  horrible,  prodigies  of  mind 
and  spirit  are  always  being  unveiled  in  modern 
psychology.  Things  that  the  old  science  at 
least  would  frankly  have  rejected  as  miracles 
are  hourly  being  asserted  by  the  new  science. 
The  only  thing  which  is  still  old-fashioned 
enough  to  reject  miracles  is  the  New  Theology. 
But  in  truth  this  notion  that  it  is  "  free  "  to 
deny  miracles  has  nothing  to  do  with  the 
evidence  for  or  against  them.  It  is  a  lifeless 
verbal  prejudice  of  which  the  original  life  and 
beginning  was  not  in  the  freedom  of  thought, 
but  simply  in  the  dogma  of  materialism.  The 
man  of  the  nineteenth  century  did  not  dis- 
believe in  the  Resurrection  because  his  liberal 
Christianity  allowed  him  to  doubt  it.  He  dis- 
believed in  it  because  his  very  strict  materialism 
did  not  allow  him  to  believe  it.  Tennyson, 
a  very  typical  nineteenth-century  man,  uttered 



one  of  the  instinctive  truisms  of  his  contem- 
poraries when  he  said  that  there  was  faith 
in  their  honest  doubt.  There  was  indeed. 
Those  words  have  a  profound  and  even  a 
horrible  truth.  In  their  doubt  of  miracles 
there  was  a  faith  in  a  fixed  and  godless  fate  ; 
a  deep  and  sincere  faith  in  the  incurable  routine 
of  the  cosmos.  The  doubts  of  the  agnostic 
were  only  the  dogmas  of  the  monist. 

Of  the  fact  and  evidence  of  the  supernatural 
I  will  speak  afterwards.  Here  we  are  only 
concerned  with  this  clear  point ;  that  in  so 
far  as  the  liberal  idea  of  freedom  can  be  said 
to  be  on  either  side  in  the  discussion  about 
miracles,  it  is  obviously  on  the  side  of  miracles. 
Reform  or  (in  the  only  tolerable  sense)  progress 
means  simply  the  gradual  control  of  matter  by 
mind.  A  miracle  simply  means  the  swift  con- 
trol of  matter  by  mind.  If  you  wish  to  feed 
the  people,  you  may  think  that  feeding  them 
miraculously  in  the  wilderness  is  impossible — 
but  you  cannot  think  it  illiberal.  If  you  really 
want  poor  children  to  go  to  the  seaside,  you 
cannot  think  it  illiberal  that  they  should 
go  there  on  flying  dragons  ;  you  can  only 
think  it  unlikely.  A  holiday,  like  Liberalism, 
only  means  the  liberty  of  man.  A  miracle 
only    means  the  liberty    of   God.      You    may 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

conscientiously  deny  cither  of  them,  hut  you 
cannot  call  your  denial  a  triumph  of  the  liberal 
idea.  The  Catholic  Church  believed  that  man 
and  God  both  had  a  sort  of  spiritual  freedom. 
Calvinism  took  away  the  freedom  from  man, 
but  left  it  to  God.  Scientific  materialism 
binds  the  Creator  Himself;  it  chains  up  God 
as  the  Apocalypse  chained  the  devil.  It  leaves 
nothing  free  in  the  universe.  And  those  who 
assist  this  process  are  called  the  "liberal 

This,  as  I  say,  is  the  lightest  and  most 
evident  case.  The  assumption  that  there  is 
something  in  the  doubt  of  miracles  akin  to 
liberality  or  reform  is  literally  the  opposite  of 
the  truth.  If  a  man  cannot  believe  in  miracles 
there  is  an  end  of  the  matter  ;  he  is  not  particu- 
larly liberal,  but  he  is  perfectly  honourable  and 
logical,  which  are  much  better  things.  But  if 
he  can  believe  in  miracles,  he  is  certainly  the 
more  liberal  for  doing  so  ;  because  they  mean 
first,  the  freedom  of  the  soul,  and  secondly, 
its  control  over  the  tyranny  of  circumstance. 
Sometimes  this  truth  is  ignored  in  a  singularly 
naive  way,  even  by  the  ablest  men.  For 
instance,  Mr.  Bernard  Shaw  speaks  with  a 
hearty  old-fashioned  contempt  for  the  idea  of 
miracles,  as   if  they  were   a  sort  of  breach  of 



faith  on  the  part  of  nature  :  he  seems  strangely 
unconscious  that  miracles  are  only  the  final 
flowers  of  his  own  favourite  tree,  the  doctrine 
of  the  omnipotence  of  will.  Just  in  the  same 
way  he  calls  the  desire  for  immortality  a  paltry 
selfishness,  forgetting  that  he  has  just  called  the 
desire  for  life  a  healthy  and  heroic  selfishness. 
How  can  it  be  noble  to  wish  to  make  one's 
life  infinite  and  yet  mean  to  wish  to  make  it 
immortal  ?  No,  if  it  is  desirable  that  man 
should  triumph  over  the  cruelty  of  nature  or 
custom,  then  miracles  are  certainly  desirable  ; 
we  will  discuss  afterwards  whether  they  are 

But  I  must  pass  on  to  the  larger  cases  of  this 
curious  error  ;  the  notion  that  the  "  liberalising  " 
of  religion  in  some  way  helps  the  liberation  of 
the  world.  The  second  example  of  it  can  be 
found  in  the  question  of  pantheism — or  rather 
of  a  certain  modern  attitude  which  is  often  called 
immanentism,  and  which  often  is  Buddhism. 
But  this  is  so  much  more  difficult  a  matter  that 
I  must  approach  it  with  rather  more  preparation. 

The  things  said  most  confidently  by  advanced 
persons  to  crowded  audiences  are  generally  those 
quite  opposite  to  the  fact ;  it  is  actually  our 
truisms  that  are  untrue.  Here  is  a  case.  There 
is  a  phrase  of  facile  liberality  uttered  again  and 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

again  at  ethical  societies  and  parliaments  of 
religion  :  "the  religions  of  the  earth  differ  in 
rites  and  forms,  but  they  are  the  same  in  what 
they  teach."  It  is  false  ;  it  is  the  opposite  of 
the  fact.  The  religions  of  the  earth  do  not 
greatly  differ  in  rites  and  forms  ;  they  do  greatly 
differ  in  what  they  teach.  It  is  as  if  a  man 
were  to  say,  "Do  not  be  misled  by  the  fact 
that  the  Church  Times  and  the  Freethinker 
look  utterly  different,  that  one  is  painted  on 
vellum  and  the  other  carved  on  marble,  that 
one  is  triangular  and  the  other  hectagonal  ; 
read  them  and  you  will  see  that  they  say  the 
same  thing."  The  truth  is,  of  course,  that 
they  are  alike  in  everything  except  in  the  fact 
that  they  don't  say  the  same  thing.  An  atheist 
stockbroker  in  Surbiton  looks  exactly  like  a 
Swedenborgian  stockbroker  in  Wimbledon. 
You  may  walk  round  and  round  them  and 
subject  them  to  the  most  personal  and  offensive 
study  without  seeing  anything  Swedenborgian 
in  the  hat  or  anything  particularly  godless  in 
the  umbrella.  It  is  exactly  in  their  souls  that 
they  are  divided.  So  the  truth  is  that  the 
difficulty  of  all  the  creeds  of  the  earth  is  not  as 
alleged  in  this  cheap  maxim  :  that  they  agree  in 
meaning,  but  differ  in  machinery.  It  is  exactly 
the    opposite.     They    agree     in     machinery ; 



almost  every  great  religion  on  earth  works  with 
the  same  external  methods,  with  priests,  scrip- 
tures, altars,  sworn  brotherhoods,  special  feasts. 
They  agree  in  the  mode  of  teaching  ;  what  they 
differ  about  is  the  thing  to  be  taught.  Pagan 
optimists  and  Eastern  pessimists  would  both  have 
temples,  just  as  Liberals  and  Tories  would  both 
have  newspapers.  Creeds  that  exist  to  destroy 
each  other  both  have  scriptures,  just  as  armies 
that  exist  to  destroy  each  other  both  have  guns. 

The  great  example  of  this  alleged  identity  of 
all  human  religions  is  the  alleged  spiritual 
identity  of  Buddhism  and  Christianity.  Those 
who  adopt  this  theory  generally  avoid  the 
ethics  of  most  other  creeds,  except,  indeed, 
Confucianism,  which  they  like  because  it  is 
not  a  creed.  But  they  are  cautious  in  their 
praises  of  Mahommedanism,  generally  con- 
fining themselves  to  imposing  its  morality 
only  upon  the  refreshment  of  the  lower  classes. 
They  seldom  suggest  the  Mahommedan  view 
of  marriage  (for  which  there  is  a  great  deal  to 
be  said),  and  towards  Thugs  and  fetish  wor- 
shippers their  attitude  may  even  be  called  cold. 
But  in  the  case  of  the  great  religion  of  Gautama 
they  feel  sincerely  a  similarity. 

Students  of  popular  science,  like  Mr.  Blatch- 
ford,  are  always  insisting  that  Christianity  and 


The  Romance  of  Orthodox;/ 

Buddhism  arc  very  much  alike,  especially  Budd- 
hism.    This  is  generally  believed,  and  I  believed 
it  myself  until  1  read  a  book  giving  the  reasons 
for  it.     The  reasons  were  of  two  kinds  :  resem- 
blances that  meant  nothing  because  they  were 
common    to    all    humanity,    and    resemblances 
which    were    not    resemblances    at    all.       The 
author  solemnly  explained  that  the  two  creeds 
were    alike   in   things   in  which    all  creeds  are 
alike,   or    else   he  described   them    as  alike   in 
some  point  in  which  they  are  quite  obviously 
different.     Thus,  as  a  case  of  the  first  class,  he 
said  that  both  Christ  and  Buddha  were  called 
by  the   divine  voice  coming   out  of  the    sky, 
as    if  you  would   expect    the   divine   voice   to 
come  out  of  the  coal-cellar.      Or,  again,  it  was 
gravely  urged  that  these  two  Eastern  teachers, 
by  a  singular  coincidence,  both  had  to  do  with 
the  washing  of  feet.     You   might  as  well  say 
that  it  was  a  remarkable  coincidence  that  they 
both  had  feet  to  wash.     And  the  other  class  of 
similarities  were  those  which  simply  were  not 
similar.      Thus    this    reconciler    of    the    two 
religions    draws    earnest    attention  to    the  fact 
that  at  certain  religious  feasts  the  robe  of  the 
Lama  is    rent   in   pieces  out   of  respect,  and 
the  remnants  highly  valued.     But  this  is  the 
reverse  of  a  resemblance,  for  the  garments  of 



Christ  were  not  rent  in  pieces  out  of  respect, 
but  out  of  derision  ;  and  the  remnants  were 
not  highly  valued  except  for  what  they  would 
fetch  in  the  rag  shops.  It  is  rather  like  allud- 
ing to  the  obvious  connection  between  the  two 
ceremonies  of  the  sword  :  when  it  taps  a  man's 
shoulder,  and  when  it  cuts  off  his  head.  It  is 
not  at  all  similar  for  the  man.  These  scraps  of 
puerile  pedantry  would  indeed  matter  little  if 
it  were  not  also  true  that  the  alleged  philoso- 
phical resemblances  are  also  of  these  two  kinds, 
either  proving  too  much  or  not  proving  any- 
thing. That  Buddhism  approves  of  mercy  or 
of  self-restraint  is  not  to  say  that  it  is  specially 
like  Christianity  ;  it  is  only  to  say  that  it  is  not 
utterly  unlike  all  human  existence.  Buddhists 
disapprove  in  theory  of  cruelty  or  excess 
because  all  sane  human  beings  disapprove  in 
theory  of  cruelty  or  excess.  But  to  say  that 
Buddhism  and  Christianity  give  the  same 
philosophy  of  these  things  is  simply  false.  All 
humanity  does  agree  that  we  are  in  a  net  of 
sin.  Most  of  humanity  agrees  that  there  is 
some  way  out.  But  as  to  what  is  the  way  out, 
I  do  not  think  that  there  are  two  institutions 
in  the  universe  which  contradict  each  other  so 
flatly  as  Buddhism  and  Christianity. 

Even    when    1    thought,    with    most    other 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

well-informed,  though  unscholarly,  people,  that 
Buddhism  and  Christianity  were  alike,  there 
was  one  thing  about  them  that  always  perplexed 
me  ;  I  mean  the  startling  difference  in  their 
type  of  religious  art.  I  do  not  mean  in  its 
technical  style  of  representation,  but  in  the 
things  that  it  was  manifestly  meant  to  represent. 
No  two  ideals  could  be  more  opposite  than  a 
Christian  saint  in  a  Gothic  cathedral  and  a 
Buddhist  saint  in  a  Chinese  temple.  The 
opposition  exists  at  every  point  ;  but  perhaps 
the  shortest  statement  of  it  is  that  the  Buddhist 
saint  always  has  his  eyes  shut,  while  the  Chris- 
tian saint  always  has  them  very  wide  open. 
The  Buddhist  saint  has  a  sleek  and  harmonious 
body,  but  his  eyes  are  heavy  and  sealed  with 
sleep.  The  mediaeval  saint's  body  is  wasted  to 
its  crazy  bones,  but  his  eyes  are  frightfully 
alive.  There  cannot  be  any  real  community  of 
spirit  between  forces  that  produced  symbols  so 
different  as  that.  Granted  that  both  images 
are  extravagances,  are  perversions  of  the  pure 
creed,  it  must  be  a  real  divergence  which  could 
produce  such  opposite  extravagances.  The 
Buddhist  is  looking  with  a  peculiar  intentness 
inwards.  The  Christian  is  staring  with  a  frantic 
intentness  outwards.  If  we  follow  that  clue 
steadily  we  shall  find  some  interesting  things. 

241  1 


A  short  time  ago  Mrs.  Besant,  in  an  interest- 
ing essay,  announced  that  there  was  only  one 
religion  in  the  world,  that  all  faiths  were  only 
versions  or  perversions  of  it,  and  that  she  was 
quite  prepared  to  say  what  it  was.  According 
to  Mrs.  Besant  this  universal  Church  is  simply 
the  universal  self.  It  is  the  doctrine  that  we 
are  really  all  one  person  ;  that  there  are  no  real 
walls  of  individuality  between  man  and  man. 
If  I  may  put  it  so,  she  does  not  tell  us  to  love 
our  neighbours  ;  she  tells  us  to  be  our  neigh- 
bours. That  is  Mrs.  Besant's  thoughtful  and 
suggestive  description  of  the  religion  in  which 
all  men  must  find  themselves  in  agreement. 
And  I  never  heard  of  any  suggestion  in  my  life 
with  which  I  more  violently  disagree.  I  want 
to  love  my  neighbour  not  because  he  is  I, 
but  precisely  because  he  is  not  I.  I  want  to 
adore  the  world,  not  as  one  likes  a  looking- 
glass,  because  it  is  one's  self,  but  as  one  loves  a 
woman,  because  she  is  entirely  different.  If 
souls  are  separate  love  is  possible.  If  souls 
are  united  love  is  obviously  impossible.  A 
man  may  be  said  loosely  to  love  himself,  but 
he  can  hardly  fall  in  love  with  himself,  or,  if 
he  does,  it  must  be  a  monotonous  courtship. 
If  the  world  is  full  of  real  selves,  they  can  be 
really  unselfish  selves.    But  upon  Mrs.  Besant's 


The    Romance,   of  Orthodoxy 

principle  the  whole   cosmos  is   only  one   enor- 
mously selfish  person. 

It  is  just  here  that  Buddhism  is  on  the  side 
of  modern  pantheism  and  immanence.  And 
it  is  just  here  that  Christianity  is  on  the  side 
of  humanity  and  liberty  and  love.  Love  desires 
personality  ;  therefore  love  desires  division.  It 
is  the  instinct  of  Christianity  to  be  glad  that 
God  has  broken  the  universe  into  little  pieces, 
because  they  are  living  pieces.  It  is  her  instinct 
to  say  "  little  children  love  one  another  "  rather 
than  to  tell  one  large  person  to  love  himself. 
This  is  the  intellectual  abyss  between  Buddhism 
and  Christianity  ;  that  for  the  Buddhist  or 
Theosophist  personality  is  the  fall  of  man, 
for  the  Christian  it  is  the  purpose  of  God,  the 
whole  point  of  his  cosmic  idea.  The  world- 
soul  of  the  Theosophists  asks  man  to  love  it 
only  in  order  that  man  may  throw  himself  into 
it.  But  the  divine  centre  of  Christianity 
actually  threw  man  out  of  it  in  order  that  he 
might  love  it.  The  oriental  deity  is  like  a 
giant  who  should  have  lost  his  leg  or  hand  and 
be  always  seeking  to  find  it ;  but  the  Christian 
power  is  like  some  giant  who  in  a  strange 
generosity  should  cut  off  his  right  hand,  so  that 
it  might  of  its  own  accord  shake  hands  with 
him.     We  come  back  to  the  same  tireless  note 



touching  the  nature  of  Christianity  ;  all  modern 
philosophies  are  chains  which  connect  and  fetter  ; 
Christianity  is  a  sword  which  separates  and  sets 
free.     No  other  philosophy  makes  God  actually 
rejoice  in  the   separation  of  the  universe  into 
living  souls.     But  according  to  orthodox  Chris- 
tianity this   separation  between  God  and  man 
is  sacred,  because  this  is  eternal.     That  a  man 
may  love  God  it  is  necessary  that  there  should 
be  not  only  a  God  to  be  loved,  but  a  man  to 
love  him.     All  those  vague  theosophical  minds 
for  whom  the  universe  is  an  immense  melting- 
pot    are    exactly  the    minds    which    shrink   in- 
stinctively from  that  earthquake  saying  of  our 
Gospels,  which    declare   that  the  Son  of  God 
came    not    with    peace    but    with    a   sundering 
sword.     The   saying  rings    entirely  true   even 
considered  as  what  it  obviously  is  ;  the  state- 
ment that  any  man  who  preaches  real  love  is 
bound  to  beget  hate.     It  is  as  true  of  democratic 
fraternity  as  of  divine  love  ;  sham  love  ends  in 
compromise  and  common  philosophy  ;  but  real 
love  has  always  ended  in  bloodshed.    Yet  there 
is  another  and  yet  more  awful  truth  behind  the 
obvious  meaning  of  this  utterance  of  our  Lord. 
According    to    Himself  the   Son   was  a  sword 
separating  brother  and  brother  that  they  should 
for  an  aeon  hate  each  other.     But  the  Father 


Tht  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

also  was  a  sword,  which  in  the  black  beginning 
separated  brother  and  brother,  so  that  they 
should  love  each  other  at  last. 

This  is  the  meaning  of  that  almost  insane 
happiness  in  the  eyes  of  the  mediaeval  saint  in 
the  picture.  This  is  the  meaning  of  the  sealed 
eyes  of  the  superb  Buddhist  image.  The 
Christian  saint  is  happy  because  he  has  verily 
been  cut  off  from  the  world  ;  he  is  separate 
from  things  and  is  staring  at  them  in  astonish- 
ment. But  why  should  the  Buddhist  saint  be 
astonished  at  things?  since  there  is  really  only 
one  thing,  and  that  being  impersonal  can  hardly 
be  astonished  at  itself.  There  have  been  many 
pantheist  poems  suggesting  wonder,  but  no 
really  successful  ones.  The  pantheist  cannot 
wonder,  for  he  cannot  praise  God  or  praise 
anything  as  really  distinct  from  himself.  Our 
immediate  business  here  however  is  with  the 
effect  of  this  Christian  admiration  (which  strikes 
outwards,  towards  a  deity  distinct  from  the 
worshipper)  upon  the  general  need  for  ethical 
activity  and  social  reform.  And  surely  its 
effect  is  sufficiently  obvious.  There  is  no  real 
possibility  of  getting  out  of  pantheism  any 
special  impulse  to  moral  action.  For  pantheism 
implies  in  its  nature  that  one  thing  is  as  good 
as  another  ;  whereas  action  implies  in  its  nature 



that  one  thing  is  greatly  preferable  to  another. 
Swinburne  in  the  high  summer  of  his  scepticism 
tried  in  vain  to  wrestle  with  this  difficulty.  In 
"  Songs  before  Sunrise,"  written  under  the  in- 
spiration of  Garibaldi  and  the  revolt  of  Italy, 
he  proclaimed  the  newer  religion  and  the  purer 
God  which  should  wither  up  all  the  priests  of 
the  world. 

"  What  doest  thou  now 
Looking  Godward  to  cry 
I  am  I,  thou  art  thou, 
I  am  lowf  thou  art  high, 

I  am  thou  that  thou  seekest  to    find    him,  find   thou 
but  thyself,  thou  art  I." 

Of  which  the  immediate  and  evident  deduc- 
tion is  that  tyrants  are  as  much  the  sons  of 
God  as  Garibaldis  ;  and  that  King  Bomba  of 
Naples  having,  with  the  utmost  success,  "  found 
himself"  is  identical  with  the  ultimate  good  in 
all  things.  The  truth  is  that  the  western 
energy  that  dethrones  tyrants  has  been  directly 
due  to  the  western  theology  that  says  "  I  am  I, 
thou  art  thou."  The  same  spiritual  separation 
which  looked  up  and  saw  a  good  king  in  the 
universe  looked  up  and  saw  a  bad  king  in 
Naples.  The  worshippers  of  Bomba's  god 
dethroned  Bomba.  The  worshippers  of  Swin- 
burne's god   have   covered  Asia   for  centuries 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

and  have  never  dethroned  a  tyrant  The  Indian 
saint  may  reasonably  shut  his  eyes  because  he 
is  looking  at  that  which  is  I  and  Thou  and  We 
and  They  and  It.  It  is  a  rational  occupation  : 
but  it  is  not  true  in  theory  and  not  true  in  fact 
that  it  helps  the  Indian  to  keep  an  eye  on  Lord 
Curzon.  That  external  vigilance  which  has 
always  been  the  mark  of  Christianity  (the 
command  that  we  should  watch  and  pray)  has 
expressed  itself  both  in  typical  western  ortho- 
doxy and  in  typical  western  politics :  but  both 
depend  on  the  idea  of  a  divinity  transcendent, 
different  from  ourselves,  a  deity  that  disappears. 
Certainly  the  most  sagacious  creeds  may  suggest 
that  we  should  pursue  God  into  deeper  and 
deeper  rings  of  the  labyrinth  of  our  own  ego. 
But  only  we  of  Christendom  have  said  that 
we  should  hunt  God  like  an  eagle  upon  the 
mountains  :  and  we  have  killed  all  monsters  ki 
the  chase. 

Here  again,  therefore,  we  find  that  in  so  far 
as  we  value  democracy  and  the  self-renewing 
energies  of  the  west,  we  are  much  more  likely 
to  find  them  in  the  old  theology  than  the  new. 
If  we  want  reform,  we  must  adhere  to  ortho- 
doxy :  especially  in  this  matter  (so  much  dis- 
puted in  the  counsels  of  Mr.  R.  J.  Campbell), 
the  matter  of  insisting  on  the  immanent  or  the 




transcendent  deity.  By  insisting  specially  on 
the  immanence  of  God  we  get  introspection, 
self-isolation,  quietism,  social  indifference — 
Tibet.  By  insisting  specially  on  the  transcen- 
dence of  God  we  get  wonder,  curiosity,  moral 
and  political  adventure,  righteous  indignation 
— Christendom.  Insisting  that  God  is  inside 
man,  man  is  always  inside  himself.  By  in- 
sisting that  God  transcends  man,  man  has 
transcended  himself. 

If  we  take  any  other  doctrine  that  has  been 
called  old-fashioned  we  shall  find  the  case  the 
same.  It  is  the  same,  for  instance,  in  the  deep 
matter  of  the  Trinity.  Unitarians  (a  sect 
never  to  be  mentioned  without  a  special  respect 
for  their  distinguished  intellectual  dignity  and 
high  intellectual  honour)  are  often  reformers 
by  the  accident  that  throws  so  many  small 
sects  into  such  an  attitude.  But  there  is 
nothing  in  the  least  liberal  or  akin  to  reform 
in  the  substitution  of  pure  monotheism  for  the 
Trinity.  The  complex  God  of  the  Athanasian 
Creed  may  be  an  enigma  for  the  intellect ;  but 
He  is  far  less  likely  to  gather  the  mystery  and 
cruelty  of  a  Sultan  than  the  lonely  god  of 
Omar  or  Mahomet.  The  god  who  is  a  mere 
awful  unity  is  not  only  a  king  but  an  Eastern 
king.     The  heart   of  humanity,   especially  of 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

European  humanity,  is  certainly  much  more 
satisfied  by  the  strange  hints  and  symbols  that 
gather  round  the  Trinitarian  idea,  the  image  of 
a  council  at  which  mercy  pleads  as  well  as 
justice,  the  conception  of  a  sort  of  liberty  and 
variety  existing  even  in  the  inmost  chamber  of 
the  world.  For  Western  religion  has  always  felt 
keenly  the  idea  "  it  is  not  well  for  man  to  be 
alone/'  The  social  instinct  asserted  itself  every- 
where as  when  the  Eastern  idea  of  hermits  was 
practically  expelled  by  the  Western  idea  of 
monks.  So  even  asceticism  became  brotherly  ; 
and  the  Trappists  were  sociable  even  when 
they  were  silent.  If  this  love  of  a  living  com- 
plexity be  our  test,  it  is  certainly  healthier  to 
have  the  Trinitarian  religion  than  the  Unitarian. 
For  to  us  Trinitarians  (if  I  may  say  it  with 
reverence) — to  us  God  Himself  is  a  society. 
It  is  indeed  a  fathomless  mystery  of  theology, 
and  even  if  I  were  theologian  enough  to  deal 
with  it  directly,  it  would  not  be  relevant  to  do 
so  here.  Suffice  it  to  say  here  that  this  triple 
enigma  is  as  comforting  as  wine  and  open  as  an 
English  fireside  ;  that  this  thing  that  bewilders 
the  intellect  utterly  quiets  the  heart  :  but  out 
of  the  desert,  from  the  dry  places  and  the 
dreadful  suns,  come  the  cruel  children  of  the 
lonely  God  ;     the    real    Unitarians    who    with 

249  i  2 


scimitar   in   hand   have    laid    waste  the  world. 
For  it  is  not  well  for  God  to  be  alone. 

Again,  the  same  is  true  of  that  difficult 
matter  of  the  danger  of  the  soul,  which  has 
unsettled  so  many  just  minds.  To  hope  for  all 
souls  is  imperative  ;  and  it  is  quite  tenable  that 
their  salvation  is  inevitable.  It  is  tenable,  but 
it  is  not  specially  favourable  to  activity  or 
progress.  Our  fighting  and  creative  society 
ought  rather  to  insist  on  the  danger  of  every- 
body, on  the  fact  that  every  man  is  hanging  by 
a  thread  or  clinging  to  a  precipice.  To  say 
that  all  will  be  well  anyhow  is  a  comprehensible 
remark  :  but  it  cannot  be  called  the  blast  of 
a  trumpet.  Europe  ought  rather  to  emphasise 
possible  perdition  ;  and  Europe  always  has 
emphasised  it.  Here  its  highest  religion  is  at 
one  with  all  its  cheapest  romances.  To  the 
Buddhist  or  the  eastern  fatalist  existence  is  a 
science  or  a  plan,  which  must  end  up  in  a 
certain  way.  But  to  a  Christian  existence  is  a 
story^  which  may  end  up  in  any  way.  In  a 
thrilling  novel  (that  purely  Christian  product) 
the  hero  is  not  eaten  by  cannibals  ;  but  it  is 
essential  to  the  existence  of  the  thrill  that  he 
might  be  eaten  by  cannibals.  The  hero  must 
(so  to  speak)  be  an  eatable  hero.  So  Christian 
morals  have  always  said  to  the  man,  not  that  he 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

would  lose  his  soul,  but  that  he  must  take  care 
that  he  didn't.  In  Christian  morals,  in  short, 
it  is  wicked  to  call  a  man  "damned  "  :  hut  it 
is  strictly  religious  and  philosophic  to  call  him 

All  Christianity  concentrates  on  the  man  at 
the  cross-roads.  The  vast  and  shallow  philoso- 
phies, the  huge  syntheses  of  humbug,  all  talk 
about  ages  and  evolution  and  ultimate  develop- 
ments. The  true  philosophy  is  concerned  with 
the  instant.  Will  a  man  take  this  road  or 
that  ?  that  is  the  only  thing  to  think  about,  if 
you  enjoy  thinking.  The  aeons  are  easy  enough 
to  think  about,  any  one  can  think  about  them. 
The  instant  is  really  awful  :  and  it  is  because 
our  religion  has  intensely  felt  the  instant,  that 
it  has  in  literature  dealt  much  with  battle  and 
in  theology  dealt  much  with  hell.  It  is  full  of 
danger,  like  a  boy's  book  :  it  is  at  an  immortal 
crisis.  There  is  a  great  deal  of  real  similarity 
between  popular  fiction  and  the  religion  of  the 
western  people.  If  you  say  that  popular  fiction 
is  vulgar  and  tawdry,  you  only  say  what  the 
dreary  and  well-informed  say  also  about  the 
images  in  the  Catholic  churches.  Life  (accord- 
ing to  the  faith)  is  very  like  a  serial  story  in  a 
magazine  :  life  ends  with  the  promise  (or 
menace)  "  to  be  continued  in  our  next."     Also, 



with  a  noble  vulgarity,  life  imitates  the  serial 
and  leaves  off  at  the  exciting  moment.  For 
death  is  distinctly  an  exciting  moment. 

But  the  point  is  that  a  story  is  exciting 
because  it  has  in  it  so  strong  an  element  of  will, 
of  what  theology  calls  free-will.  You  cannot 
finish  a  sum  how  you  like.  But  you  can 
finish  a  story  how  you  like.  When  somebody 
discovered  the  Differential  Calculus  there  was 
only  one  Differential  Calculus  he  could  discover. 
But  when  Shakespeare  killed  Romeo  he  might 
have  married  him  to  Juliet's  old  nurse  if  he 
had  felt  inclined.  And  Christendom  has 
excelled  in  the  narrative  romance  exactly 
because  it  has  insisted  on  the  theological  free- 
will. It  is  a  large  matter  and  too  much  to  one 
side  of  the  road  to  be  discussed  adequately 
here ;  but  this  is  the  real  objection  to  that 
torrent  of  modern  talk  about  treating  crime  as 
disease,  about  making  a  prison  merely  a 
hygienic  environment  like  a  hospital,  of  healing 
sin  by  slow  scientific  methods.  The  fallacy  of 
the  whole  thing  is  that  evil  is  a  matter  of  active 
choice,  whereas  disease  is  not.  If  you  say  that 
you  are  going  to  cure  a  profligate  as  you  cure  an 
asthmatic,  my  cheap  and  obvious  answer  is, 
"  Produce  the  people  who  want  to  be  asthmatics 
as  many  people  want   to  be  profligates.,,      A 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

man  may  lie  still  and  be  cured  of  a  malady. 
But  he  must  not  lie  still  if  he  wants  to  be  cured 
of  a  sin  ;  on  the  contrary,  he  must  get  up  and 
jump  about  violently.  The  whole  point  indeed 
is  perfectly  expressed  in  the  very  word  which 
we  use  for  a  man  in  hospital  ;  "  patient  "  is  in 
the  passive  mood  ;  "  sinner  M  is  in  the  active. 
If  a  man  is  to  be  saved  from  influenza,  he  may 
be  a  patient.  But  if  he  is  to  be  saved  from 
forging,  he  must  be  not  a  patient  but  an 
impatient.  He  must  be  personally  impatient 
with  forgery.  All  moral  reform  must  start  in 
the  active  not  the  passive  will. 

Here  again  we  reach  the  same  substantial 
conclusion.  In  so  far  as  we  desire  the  definite 
reconstructions  and  the  dangerous  revolutions 
which  have  distinguished  European  civilisation, 
we  shall  not  discourage  the  thought  of  possible 
ruin  ;  we  shall  rather  encourage  it.  If  we 
want,  like  the  Eastern  saints,  merely  to  con- 
template how  right  things  are,  of  course  we 
shall  only  say  that  they  must  go  right.  But  if 
we  particularly  want  to  make  them  go  right,  we 
must  insist  that  they  may  go  wrong. 

Lastly,  this  truth  is  yet  again  true  in  the 
case  of  the  common  modern  attempts  to 
diminish  or  to  explain  away  the  divinity  of 
Christ.     The  thing  may  be  true  or  not ;  that 



I  shall  deal  with  before  I  end.  But  if  the 
divinity  is  true  it  is  certainly  terribly  revolu- 
tionary. That  a  good  man  may  have  his  back 
to  the  wall  is  no  more  than  we  knew  already  ; 
but  that  God  could  have  his  back  to  the  wall  is 
a  boast  for  all  insurgents  for  ever.  Christianity 
is  the  only  religion  on  earth  that  has  felt  that 
omnipotence  made  God  incomplete.  Chris- 
tianity alone  has  felt  that  God,  to  be  wholly 
God,  must  have  been  a  rebel  as  well  as  a  king. 
Alone  of  all  creeds,  Christianity  has  added 
courage  to  the  virtues  of  the  Creator.  For  the 
only  courage  worth  calling  courage  must 
necessarily  mean  that  the  soul  passes  a  breaking 
point — and  does  not  break.  In  this  indeed  I 
approach  a  matter  more  dark  and  awful  than  it 
is  easy  to  discuss  ;  and  I  apologise  in  advance 
if  any  of  my  phrases  fall  wrong  or  seem 
irreverent  touching  a  matter  which  the  greatest 
saints  and  thinkers  have  justly  feared  to 
approach.  But  in  that  terrific  tale  of  the  Passion 
there  is  a  distinct  emotional  suggestion  that 
the  author  of  all  things  (in  some  unthinkable 
way)  went  not  only  through  agony,  but 
through  doubt.  It  is  written,  "  Thou  shalt 
not  tempt  the  Lord  thy  God."  No  ;  but  the 
Lord  thy  God  may  tempt  Himself;  and  it 
seems    as     if    this    was    what    happened    in 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

Gcthsemane.  In  a  garden  Satan  tempted  man  : 
and  in  a  garden  God  tempted  God.  He  passed 
in  some  superhuman  manner  through  our 
human  horror  of  pessimism.  When  the  world 
shook  and  the  sun  was  wiped  out  of  heaven, 
it  was  not  at  the  crucifixion,  but  at  the  cry 
from  the  cross  :  the  cry  which  confessed  that 
God  was  forsaken  of  God.  And  now  let  the 
revolutionists  choose  a  creed  from  all  the 
creeds  and  a  god  from  all  the  gods  of  the  world, 
carefully  weighing  all  the  gods  of  inevitable 
recurrence  and  of  unalterable  power.  They 
will  not  find  another  god  who  has  himself  been 
in  revolt.  Nay,  (the  matter  grows  too  difficult 
for  human  speech)  but  let  the  atheists  them- 
selves choose  a  god.  They  will  find  only  one 
divinity  who  ever  uttered  their  isolation  ;  only 
one  religion  in  which  God  seemed  for  an 
instant  to  be  an  atheist. 

These  can  be  called  the  essentials  of  the  old 
orthodoxy,  of  which  the  chief  merit  is  that  it  is 
the  natural  fountain  of  revolution  and  reform ; 
and  of  which  the  chief  defect  is  that  it  is 
obviously  only  an  abstract  assertion.  Its  main 
advantage  is  that  it  is  the  most  adventurous 
and  manly  of  all  theologies.  Its  chief  disad- 
vantage is  simply  that  it  is  a  theology.  It  can 
always  be  urged  against  it  that  it  is  in  its  nature 



arbitrary  and  in  the  air.  But  it  is  not  so  high 
in  the  air  but  that  great  archers  spend  their 
whole  lives  in  shooting  arrows  at  it — yes,  and 
their  last  arrows  ;  there  are  men  who  will  ruin 
themselves  and  ruin  their  civilisation  if  they 
may  ruin  also  this  old  fantastic  tale.  This  is 
the  last  and  most  astounding  fact  about  this 
faith  ;  that  its  enemies  will  use  any  weapon 
against  it,  the  swords  that  cut  their  own  fingers, 
and  the  firebrands  that  burn  their  own  homes. 
Men  who  begin  to  fight  the  Church  for  the 
sake  of  freedom  and  humanity  end  by  flinging 
away  freedom  and  humanity  if  only  they  may 
fight  the  Church.  This  is  no  exaggeration  ; 
I  could  fill  a  book  with  the  instances  of  it. 
Mr.  Blatchford  set  out,  as  an  ordinary  Bible- 
smasher,  to  prove  that  Adam  was  guiltless  of  sin 
against  God  ;  in  manoeuvring  so  as  to  maintain 
this  he  admitted,  as  a  mere  side  issue,  that  all 
the  tyrants,  from  Nero  to  King  Leopold,  were 
guiltless  of  any  sin  against  humanity.  I  know 
a  man  who  has  such  a  passion  for  proving  that 
he  will  have  no  personal  existence  after  death 
that  he  falls  back  on  the  position  that  he  has  no 
personal  existence  now.  Fie  invokes  Buddhism 
and  says  that  all  souls  fade  into  each  other  ; 
in  order  to  prove  that  he  cannot  go  to  heaven 
he    proves   that   he  cannot   go  to  Hartlepool. 


The  Romance  of  Orthodoxy 

I  have  known  people  who  protested  against 
religious  education  with  arguments  against  any 
education,  saying  that  the  child's  mind  must 
grow  freely  or  that  the  old  must  not  teach  the 
young.  I  have  known  people  who  showed 
that  there  could  be  no  divine  judgment  by 
showing  that  there  can  be  no  human  judg- 
ment, even  for  practical  purposes.  They 
burned  their  own  corn  to  set  fire  to  the 
church  ;  they  smashed  their  own  tools  to 
smash  it ;  any  stick  was  good  enough  to  beat 
it  with,  though  it  were  the  last  stick  of  their  own 
dismembered  furniture.  We  do  not  admire, 
we  hardly  excuse,  the  fanatic  who  wrecks  this 
world  for  love  of  the  other.  But  what  are  we 
to  say  of  the  fanatic  who  wrecks  this  world  out 
of  hatred  of  the  other  ?  He  sacrifices  the  very 
existence  of  humanity  to  the  non-existence  of 
God.  He  offers  his  victims  not  to  the  altar, 
but  merely  to  assert  the  idleness  of  the  altar 
and  the  emptiness  of  the  throne.  He  is  ready 
to  ruin  even  that  primary  ethic  by  which  all 
things  live,  for  his  strange  and  eternal  vengeance 
upon  some  one  who  never  lived  at  all. 

And  yet  the  thing  hangs  in  the  heavens 
unhurt.  Its  opponents  only  succeed  in  de- 
stroying all  that  they  themselves  justly  hold 
dear.     They  do  not  destroy  orthodoxy  ;  they 



only  destroy  political  courage  and  common 
sense.  They  do  not  prove  that  Adam  was  not 
responsible  to  God  ;  how  could  they  prove  it  ? 
They  only  prove  (from  their  premises)  that 
the  Czar  is  not  responsible  to  Russia.  They 
do  not  prove  that  Adam  should  not  have  been 
punished  by  God  ;  they  only  prove  that  the 
nearest  sweater  should  not  be  punished  by  men. 
With  their  oriental  doubts  about  personality 
they  do  not  make  certain  that  we  shall  have  no 
personal  life  hereafter  ;  they  only  make  certain 
that  we  shall  not  have  a  very  jolly  or  complete 
one  here.  With  their  paralysing  hints  of  all 
conclusions  coming  out  wrong  they  do  not  tear 
the  book  of  the  Recording  Angel ;  they  only 
make  it  a  little  harder  to  keep  the  books  of 
Marshall  and  Snelgrove.  Not  only  is  the  faith 
the  mother  of  all  worldly  energies,  but  its  foes 
are  the  fathers  of  all  worldly  confusion.  The 
secularists  have  not  wrecked  divine  things ; 
but  the  secularists  have  wrecked  secular  things, 
if  that  is  any  comfort  to  them.  The  Titans 
did  not  scale  heaven  ;  but  they  laid  waste  the 


Chapter    IX — Authority  and  the 

THE  last  chapter  has  been  concerned 
with  the  contention  that  orthodoxy 
is  not  only  (as  is  often  urged)  the 
only  safe  guardian  of  morality  or 
order,  but  is  also  the  only  logical  guardian  of 
liberty,  innovation  and  advance.  If  we  wish  to 
pull  down  the  prosperous  oppresssor  we  cannot 
do  it  with  the  new  doctrine  of  human  per- 
fectibility ;  we  can  do  it  with  the  old  doctrine  of 
Original  Sin.  If  we  want  to  uproot  inherent 
cruelties  or  lift  up  lost  populations  we  cannot 
do  it  with  the  scientific  theory  that  matter 
precedes  mind  ;  we  can  do  it  with  the  super- 
natural theory  that  mind  precedes  matter.  If 
we  wish  specially  to  awaken  people  to  social 
vigilance  and  tireless  pursuit  of  practise,  we 
cannot  help  it  much  by  insisting  on  the 
Immanent  God  and  the  Inner  Light  :  for  these 
are  at  best  reasons  for  contentment  ;  we  can  help 
it  much  by  insisting  on  the  transcendant  God  and 
the  flying  and  escaping  gleam  ;  for  that  means 
divine  discontent.  If  we  wish  particularly  to 
assert  the  idea  of  a  generous  balance  against 
that  of  a  dreadful  autocracy  we  shall  instinctively 



be  Trinitarian  rather  than  Unitarian.  If  we 
desire  European  civilisation  to  be  a  raid  and  a 
rescue,  we  shall  insist  rather  that  souls  are  in 
real  peril  than  that  their  peril  is  ultimately  un- 
real. And  if  we  wish  to  exalt  the  outcast  and 
the  crucified,  we  shall  rather  wish  to  think  that 
a  veritable  God  was  crucified,  rather  than  a 
mere  sage  or  hero.  Above  all,  if  we  wish  to 
protect  the  poor  we  shall  be  in  favour  of  fixed 
rules  and  clear  dogmas.  The  rules  of  a  club 
are  occasionally  in  favour  of  the  poor  member. 
The  drift  of  a  club  is  always  in  favour  of  the 
rich  one. 

And  now  we  come  to  the  crucial  question 
which  truly  concludes  the  whole  matter.  A 
reasonable  agnostic,  if  he  has  happened  to 
agree  with  me  so  far,  may  justly  turn  round  and 
say,  "  You  have  found  a  practical  philosophy  in 
the  doctrine  of  the  Fall ;  very  well.  You  have 
found  a  side  of  democracy  now  dangerously 
neglected  wisely  asserted  in  Original  Sin  ;  all 
right.  You  have  found  a  truth  in  the  doctrine 
of  hell  ;  I  congratulate  you.  You  are  convinced 
that  worshippers  of  a  personal  God  look  outwards 
and  are  progressive  ;  I  congratulate  them.  But 
even  supposing  that  those  doctrines  do  include 
those  truths,  why  cannot  you  take  the  truths 
and    leave    the    doctrines  ?     Granted    that    all 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

modern  society  is  trusting  the  rich  too  much 
because  it  does  not  allow  for  human  weakness  ; 
granted  that  orthodox  ages  have  had  a  great 
advantage  because  (believing  in  the  Fall)  they 
did  allow  for  human  weakness,  why  cannot  you 
simply  allow  for  human  weakness  without  be- 
lieving in  the  Fall  ?  If  you  have  discovered 
that  the  idea  of  damnation  represents  a  healthy 
idea  of  danger,  why  can  you  not  simply  take 
the  idea  of  danger  and  leave  the  idea  of 
damnation  ?  If  you  see  clearly  the  kernel 
of  common-sense  in  the  nut  of  Christian 
orthodoxy,  why  cannot  you  simply  take  the 
kernel  and  leave  the  nut  ?  Why  cannot  you 
(to  use  that  cant  phrase  of  the  newspapers 
which  I,  as  a  highly  scholarly  agnostic,  am  a 
little  ashamed  of  using)  why  cannot  you 
simply  take  what  is  good  in  Christianity, 
what  you  can  define  as  valuable,  what  you 
can  comprehend,  and  leave  all  the  rest,  all 
the  absolute  dogmas  that  are  in  their  nature 
incomprehensible  ?  "  This  is  the  real  question  ; 
this  is  the  last  question  ;  and  it  is  a  pleasure  to 
try  to  answer  it. 

The  first  answer  is  simply  to  say  that 
I  am  a  rationalist.  I  like  to  have  some 
intellectual  justification  for  my  intuitions. 
If  I  am  treating  man  as  a  fallen  being  it  is  an 



intellectual  convenience  to  me  to  believe  that 
he  fell ;  and  I  find,  for  some  odd  psychological 
reason,  that  I  can  deal  better  with  a  man's 
exercise  of  freewill  if  I  believe  that  he  has  got 
it.  But  I  am  in  this  matter  yet  more  definitely 
a  rationalist.  I  do  not  propose  to  turn  this  book 
into  one  of  ordinary  Christian  apologetics  ;  I 
should  be  glad  to  meet  at  any  other  time  the 
enemies  of  Christianity  in  that  more  obvious 
arena.  Here  I  am  only  giving  an  account  of 
my  own  growth  in  spiritual  certainty.  But  I 
may  pause  to  remark  that  the  more  I  saw  of 
the  merely  abstract  arguments  against  the 
Christian  cosmology  the  less  I  thought  of  them. 
I  mean  that  having  found  the  moral  atmosphere 
of  the  Incarnation  to  be  common  sense,  I  then 
looked  at  the  established  intellectual  arguments 
against  the  Incarnation  and  found  them  to  be 
common  nonsense.  In  case  the  argument 
should  be  thought  to  suffer  from  the  absence  of 
the  ordinary  apologetic  I  will  here  very  briefly 
summarise  my  own  arguments  and  conclusions 
on  the  purely  objective  or  scientific  truth  of 
the  matter. 

If  I  am  asked,  as  a  purely  intellectual  ques- 
tion, why  I  believe  in  Christianity,  I  can  only 
answer,  "  Foi  the  same  reason  that  an  intel- 
ligent agnostic  disbelieves  in  Christianity."     I 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

believe  in  it  quite  rationally  upon  the  evidence. 
But  the  evidence  in  my  case,  as  in  that  of  the 
intelligent  agnostic,  is  not  really  in  this  or  that 
alleged  demonstration  ;  it  is  in  an  enormous 
accumulation  of  small  but  unanimous  facts. 
The  secularist  is  not  to  be  blamed  because  his 
objections  to  Christianity  are  miscellaneous  and 
even  scrappy  ;  it  is  precisely  such  scrappy 
evidence  that  does  convince  the  mind.  1  mean 
that  a  man  may  well  be  less  convinced  of  a 
philosophy  from  four  books,  than  from  one 
book,  one  battle,  one  landscape,  and  one  old 
friend.  The  very  fact  that  the  things  are  of 
different  kinds  increases  the  importance  of  the 
fact  that  they  all  point  to  one  conclusion. 
Now,  the  non-Christianity  of  the  average 
educated  man  to-day  is  almost  always,  to  do 
him  justice,  made  up  of  these  loose  but  living 
experiences.  I  can  only  say  that  my  evidences 
for  Christianity  are  of  the  same  vivid  but  varied 
kind  as  his  evidences  against  it.  For  when  I 
look  at  these  various  anti-Christian  truths, 
I  simply  discover  that  none  of  them  are  true. 
I  discover  that  the  true  tide  and  force  of  all  the 
facts  flows  the  other  way.  Let  us  take  cases. 
Many  a  sensible  modern  man  must  have 
abandoned  Christianity  under  the  pressure  of 
three    such    converging    convictions  as    these  : 



first,  that  men,  with  their  shape,  structure,  and 
sexuality,  are,  after  all,  very  much  like  beasts,  a 
mere  variety  of  the  animal  kingdom  ;  second, 
that  primeval  religion  arose  in  ignorance  and 
fear  ;  third,  that  priests  have  blighted  societies 
with  bitterness  and  gloom.  Those  three  anti- 
Christian  arguments  are  very  different  ;  but 
they  are  all  quite  logical  and  legitimate  ;  and 
they  all  converge.  The  only  objection  to  them 
(I  discover)  is  that  they  are  all  untrue.  If  you 
leave  off  looking  at  books  about  beasts  and 
men,  if  you  begin  to  look  at  beasts  and  men  then 
(if  you  have  any  humour  or  imagination,  any 
sense  of  the  frantic  or  the  farcical)  you  will 
observe  that  the  startling  thing  is  not  how  like 
man  is  to  the  brutes,  but  how  unlike  he  is.  It 
is  the  monstrous  scale  of  his  divergence  that 
requires  an  explanation.  That  man  and  brute 
are  like  is,  in  a  sense,  a  truism  ;  but  that  being 
so  like  they  should  then  be  so  insanely  unlike, 
that  is  the  shock  and  the  enigma.  That  an  ape 
has  hands  is  far  less  interesting  to  the 
philosopher  than  the  fact  that  having  hands 
he  does  next  to  nothing  with  them  ;  does  not 
play  knuckle-bones  or  the  violin  ;  does  not 
carve  marble  or  carve  mutton.  People  talk  of 
barbaric  architecture  and  debased  art.  But 
elephants  do  not  build  colossal  temples  of  ivory 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

even  in  a  roccoco  style  ;  camels  do  not  paint 
even  bad  pictures,  though  equipped  with  the 
material  of  many  camel's-hair  brushes.  Certain 
modern  dreamers  say  that  ants  and  bees  have  a 
society  superior  to  ours.  They  have,  indeed,  a 
civilisation  ;  but  that  very  truth  only  reminds 
us  that  it  is  an  inferior  civilisation.  Who  ever 
found  an  ant-hill  decorated  with  the  statues  of 
celebrated  ants  ?  Who  has  seen  a  bee-hive 
carved  with  the  images  of  gorgeous  queens  of 
old  ?  No  ;  the  chasm  between  man  and  other 
creatures  may  have  a  natural  explanation,  but  it 
is  a  chasm.  We  talk  of  wild  animals  ;  but 
man  is  the  only  wild  animal.  It  is  man  that 
has  broken  out.  All  other  animals  are  tame 
animals  ;  following  the  rugged  respectability  of 
the  tribe  or  type.  All  other  animals  are 
domestic  animals  ;  man  alone  is  ever  undomestic, 
either  as  a  profligate  or  a  monk.  So  that  this 
first  superficial  reason  for  materialism  is,  if 
anything,  a  reason  for  its  opposite  ;  it  is  exactly 
where  biology  leaves  off  that  all  religion  begins. 
It  would  be  the  same  if  I  examined  the 
second  of  the  three  chance  rationalist  arguments  ; 
the  argument  that  all  that  we  call  divine  began 
in  some  darkness  and  terror.  When  I  did 
attempt  to  examine  the  foundations  of  this 
modern   idea   I   simply  found  that   there  were 



none.  Science  knows  nothing  whatever  about 
pre-historic  man  ;  for  the  excellent  reason  that 
he  is  pre-historic.  A  few  professors  choose  to 
conjecture  that  such  things  as  human  sacrifice 
were  once  innocent  and  general  and  that  they 
gradually  dwindled ;  but  there  is  no  direct 
evidence  of  it,  and  the  small  amount  of  indirect 
evidence  is  very  much  the  other  way.  In  the 
earliest  legends  we  have,  such  as  the  tales  of 
Isaac  and  of  Iphigenia,  human  sacrifice  is  not 
introduced  as  something  old,  but  rather  as 
something  new ;  as  a  strange  and  frightful 
exception  darkly  demanded  by  the  gods. 
History  says  nothing  ;  and  legends  all  say  that 
the  earth  was  kinder  in  its  earliest  time.  There 
is  no  tradition  of  progress ;  but  the  whole 
human  race  has  a  tradition  of  the  Fall. 
Amusingly  enough,  indeed,  the  very  dissemina- 
tion of  this  idea  is  used  against  its  authenticity. 
Learned  men  literally  say  that  this  pre-historic 
calamity  cannot  be  true  because  every  race  of 
mankind  remembers  it.  I  cannot  keep  pace 
with  these  paradoxes. 

And  if  we  took  the  third  chance  instance,  it 
would  be  the  same  ;  the  view  that  priests 
darken  and  embitter  the  world.  I  look  at  the 
world  and  simply  discover  that  they  don't. 
Those    countries    in    Europe   which    are    still 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

influenced  by  priests,  are  exactly  the  countries 
where  there  is  still  singing  and  dancing  and 
coloured  dresses  and  art  in  the  open-air. 
Catholic  doctrine  and  discipline  may  be 
walls  ;  but  they  are  the  walls  of  a  play- 
ground. Christianity  is  the  only  frame  which 
has  preserved  the  pleasure  of  Paganism.  We 
might  fancy  some  children  playing  on  the 
flat  grassy  top  of  some  tall  island  in  the  sea. 
So  long  as  there  was  a  wall  round  the  cliff's 
edge  they  could  fling  themselves  into  every 
frantic  game  and  make  the  place  the  noisiest  of 
nurseries.  But  the  walls  were  knocked  down, 
leaving  the  naked  peril  of  the  precipice.  They 
did  not  fall  over  ;  but  when  their  friends 
returned  to  them  they  were  all  huddled  in 
terror  in  the  centre  of  the  island  ;  and  their 
song  had  ceased. 

Thus  these  three  facts  of  experience,  such 
facts  as  go  to  make  an  agnostic,  are,  in  this 
view,  turned  totally  round.  I  am  left  saying, 
"  Give  me  an  explanation,  first,  of  the  towering 
eccentricity  of  man  among  the  brutes  ;  second, 
of  the  vast  human  tradition  of  some  ancient 
happiness  ;  third,  of  the  partial  perpetuation  of 
such  pagan  joy  in  the  countries  of  the  Catholic 
Church."  One  explanation,  at  any  rate,  covers 
all  three  :  the  theory  that  twice  was  the  natural 



order  interrupted  by  some  explosion  or  reve- 
lation such  as  people  now  call  "  psychic."  Once 
Heaven  came  upon  the  earth  with  a  power  or 
seal  called  the  image  of  God,  whereby  man  took 
command  of  Nature  ;  and  once  again  (when 
in  empire  after  empire  men  had  been  found 
wanting)  Heaven  came  to  save  mankind  in  the 
awful  shape  of  a  man.  This  would  explain 
why  the  mass  of  men  always  look  backwards  ; 
and  why  the  only  corner  where  they  in  any 
sense  look  forwards  is  the  little  continent  where 
Christ  has  His  Church.  I  know  it  will  be  said 
that  Japan  has  become  progressive.  But  how 
can  this  be  an  answer  when  even  in  saying 
"  Japan  has  become  progressive,"  we  really 
only  mean,  "  Japan  has  become  European  "  ? 
But  I  wish  here  not  so  much  to  insist  on  my 
own  explanation  as  to  insist  on  my  original 
remark.  I  agree  with  the  ordinary  unbelieving 
man  in  the  street  in  being  guided  by  three  or  four 
odd  facts  all  pointing  to  something  ;  only  when 
I  came  to  look  at  the  facts  I  always  found  they 

pointed  to  something  else, 


I  have  given  an  imaginary  triad  of  such 
ordinary  anti-Christian  arguments  ;  if  that  be 
too  narrow  a  basis  I  will  give  on  the  spur  of 
the  moment  another.  These  are  the  kind  of 
thoughts    which    in    combination    create     the 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

impression  that  Christianity  is  something  weak 
and   diseased.      First,   for    instance,   that   Jesus 
was  a  gentle  creature,  sheepish  and  unworldly, 
a  mere  ineffectual  appeal  to  the  world  ;  second, 
that   Christianity   arose    and    flourished    in   the 
dark  ages  of  ignorance,  and   that   to   these  the 
Church   would   drag   us   back  ;   third,   that   the 
people   still   strongly  religious  or  (if  you  will) 
superstitious — such    people    as    the    Irish — are 
weak,   unpractical,    and    behind    the    times.      I 
only  mention    these   ideas   to  affirm   the  same 
thing  :  that  when   I   looked    into    them   inde- 
pendently  I   found,   not   that    the    conclusions 
were  unphilosophical,  but  simply  that  the  facts 
were  not  facts.      Instead  of  looking  at  books 
and  pictures  about  the  New  Testament  I  looked 
at    the    New    Testament.     There   I   found   an 
account,  not  in  the  least  of  a  person  with  his 
hair  parted  in  the  middle  or  his  hands  clasped 
in  appeal,  but  of  an  extraordinary  being  with 
lips   of   thunder    and    acts    of  lurid    decision, 
flinging  down  tables,  casting  out  devils,  passing 
with  the  wild  secrecy  of  the  wind  from  moun- 
tain isolation  to  a  sort  of  dreadful  demagogy  ; 
a  being  who  often  acted  like  an  angry  god — 
and    always    like   a   god.     Christ    had   even  a 
literary  style  of  his  own,   not  to  be  found,  I 
think,    elsewhere ;    it    consists    of    an    almost 



furious  use  of  the  a  fortiori.  His  "how  much 
more "  is  piled  one  upon  another  like  castle 
upon  castle  in  the  clouds.  The  diction  used 
about  Christ  has  been,  and  perhaps  wisely,  sweet 
'ind  submissive.  But  the  diction  used  by  Christ 
is  quite  curiously  gigantesque  ;  it  is  full  of 
camels  leaping  through  needles  and  mountains 
hurled  into  the  sea.  Morally  it  is  equally 
terrific  ;  he  called  himself  a  sword  of  slaughter, 
and  told  men  to  buy  swords  if  they  sold  their 
coats  for  them.  That  he  used  other  even 
wilder  words  on  the  side  of  non-resistance 
greatly  increases  the  mystery  ;  but  it  also,  if 
anything,  rather  increases  the  violence.  We 
cannot  even  explain  it  by  calling  such  a  being 
insane  ;  for  insanity  is  usually  along  one  con- 
sistent channel.  The  maniac  is  generally  a 
monomaniac.  Here  we  must  remember  the 
difficult  definition  of  Christianity  already  given ; 
Christianity  is  a  superhuman  paradox  whereby 
two  opposite  passions  may  blaze  beside  each 
other.  The  one  explanation  of  the  Gospel 
language  that  does  explain  it,  is  that  it  is  the 
survey  of  one  who  from  some  supernatural 
height  beholds  some  more  startling  synthesis. 

I  take  in  order  the  next  instance  offered  : 
the  idea  that  Christianity  belongs  to  the  dark 
ages.     Here    I    did    not    satisfy   myself  with 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

reading  modern  generalisations  ;  1  read  a  little 
history.  And  in  history  I  found  that  Christi- 
anity, so  far  from  belonging  to  the  dark  ages, 
was  the  one  path  across  the  dark  ages  that  was 
not  dark.  It  was  a  shining  bridge  connecting 
two  shining  civilisations.  If  any  one  says  that 
the  faith  arose  in  ignorance  and  savagery  the 
answer  is  simple  :  it  didn't.  It  arose  in  the 
Mediterranean  civilisation  in  the  full  summer 
of  the  Roman  Empire.  The  world  was  swarm- 
ing with  sceptics,  and  pantheism  was  as  plain  as 
the  sun,  when  Constantine  nailed  the  cross  to 
the  mast.  It  is  perfectly  true  that  afterwards 
the  ship  sank  ;  but  it  is  far  more  extraordinary 
that  the  ship  came  up  again  :  repainted  and 
glittering,  with  the  cross  still  at  the  top.  This 
is  the  amazing  thing  the  religion  did  :  it  turned 
a  sunken  ship  into  a  submarine.  The  ark  lived 
under  the  load  of  waters  ;  after  being  buried 
under  the  debris  of  dynasties  and  clans,  we 
arose  and  remembered  Rome.  If  our  faith  had 
been  a  mere  fad  of  the  fading  empire,  fad  would 
have  followed  fad  in  the  twilight,  and  if  the 
civilisation  ever  re-emerged  (and  many  such 
have  never  re-emerged)  it  would  have  been 
under  some  new  barbaric  flag.  But  the  Christian 
Church  was  the  last  life  of  the  old  society  and 
was  also  the  first  life  of  the  new.     She  took  the 



people  who  were  forgetting  how  to  make  an 
arch  and  she  taught  them  to  invent  the  Gothic 
arch.  In  a  word,  the  most  absurd  thing  that 
could  be  said  of  the  Church  is  the  thing  we 
have  all  heard  said  of  it.  How  can  we  say  that 
the  Church  wishes  to  bring  us  back  into  the 
Dark  Ages  ?  The  Church  was  the  only  thing 
that  ever  brought  us  out  of  them. 

I  added  in  this  second  trinity  of  objections 
an  idle  instance  taken  from  those  who  feel  such 
people  as  the  Irish  to  be  weakened  or  made 
stagnant  by  superstition.  I  only  added  it 
because  this  is  a  peculiar  case  of  a  statement  of 
fact  that  turns  out  to  be  a  statement  of  false, 
hood.  It  is  constantly  said  of  the  Irish  that 
they  are  impractical.  But  if  we  refrain  for  a 
moment  from  looking  at  what  is  said  about 
them  and  look  at  what  is  done  about  them,  we 
shall  see  that  the  Irish  are  not  only  practical, 
but  quite  painfully  successful.  The  poverty  of 
their  country,  the  minority  of  their  members 
are  simply  the  conditions  under  which  they 
were  asked  to  work  ;  but  no  other  group  in 
the  British  Empire  has  done  so  much  with  such 
conditions.  The  Nationalists  were  the  only 
minority  that  ever  succeeded  in  twisting  the 
whole  British  Parliament  sharply  out  of  its  path. 
The  Irish  peasants  are  the  only  poor  men  in 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

these  islands  who  have  forced  their  masters  to 
disgorge.  These  people,  whom  we  call  priest- 
ridden,  are  the  only  Britons  who  will  not  be 
squire-ridden.  And  when  I  came  to  look  at  the 
actual  Irish  character,  the  case  was  the  same. 
Irishmen  are  best  at  the  specially  hard  profes- 
sions— the  trades  of  iron,  the  lawyer,  and  the 
soldier.  In  all  these  cases,  therefore,  I  came 
back  to  the  same  conclusion  :  the  sceptic  was 
quite  right  to  go  by  the  facts,  only  he  had  not 
looked  at  the  facts.  The  sceptic  is  too  credu- 
lous ;  he  believes  in  newspapers  or  even  in 
encyclopaedias.  Again  the  three  questions  left 
me  with  three  very  antagonistic  questions. 
The  average  sceptic  wanted  to  know  how  I 
explained  the  namby-pamby  note  in  the  Gospel, 
the  connection  of  the  creed  with  mediaeval 
darkness  and  the  political  impracticability  of  the 
Celtic  Christians.  But  1  wanted  to  ask,  and  to 
ask  with  an  earnestness  amounting  to  urgency, 
"What  is  this  incomparable  energy  which 
appears  first  in  one  walking  the  earth  like  a 
living  judgment  and  this  energy  which  can  die 
with  a  dying  civilisation  and  yet  force  it  to  a 
resurrection  from  the  dead  ;  this  energy  which 
last  of  all  can  inflame  a  bankrupt  peasantry 
with  so  fixed  a  faith  in  justice  that  they  get 
what  they  ask,  while  others  go  empty  away  ; 

273  k 


so  that  the  most  helpless  island  of  the  Empire 
can  actually  help  itself  ?  " 

k  There  is  an  answer  :  it  is  an  answer  to  say 
that  the  energy  is  truly  from  outside  the  world  ; 
that  it  is  psychic,  or  at  least  one  of  the  results 
of  a  real  psychical  disturbance.  The  highest 
gratitude  and  respect  are  due  to  the  great 
human  civilisations  such  as  the  old  Egyptian 
or  the  existing  Chinese.  Nevertheless  it  is  no 
injustice  for  them  to  say  that  only  modern 
Europe  has  exhibited  incessantly  a  power  of  self- 
renewal  recurring  often  at  the  shortest  intervals 
and  descending  to  the  smallest  facts  of  building 
or  costume.  All  other  societies  die  finally  and 
with  dignity.  We  die  daily.  We  are  always  being 
born  again  with  almost  indecent  obstetrics. 
It  is  hardly  an  exaggeration  to  say  that  there  is 
in  historic  Christendom  a  sort  of  unnatural  life  : 
it  could  be  explained  as  a  supernatural  life.  It 
could  be  explained  as  an  awful  galvanic  life 
working  in  what  would  have  been  a  corpse. 
For  our  civilisation  ought  to  have  died,  by  all 
parallels,  by  all  sociological  probability,  in  the 
Ragnorak  of  the  end  of  Rome.  That  is 
the  weird  inspiration  of  our  estate  :  you  and  I 
have  no  business  to  be  here  at  all.  We  are  all 
revenants  ;  all  living  Christians  are  dead  pagans 
walking  about     Just    as    Europe    was    about 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

to  be  gathered  in  silence  to  Assyria  and  Baby- 
lon, something  entered  into  its  body.  And 
Europe  has  had  a  strange  life — it  is  not  too 
much  to  say  that  it  has  had  the  jumps — ever  since. 

I  have  dealt  at  length  with  such  typical  triads 
of  doubt  in  order  to  convey  the  main  con- 
tention— that  my  own  case  for  Christianity 
is  rational ;  but  it  is  not  simple.  It  is  an  accu- 
mulation of  varied  facts,  like  the  attitude 
of  the  ordinary  agnostic.  But  the  ordinary 
agnostic  has  got  his  facts  all  wrong.  He  is  a 
non-believer  for  a  multitude  of  reasons  ;  but 
they  are  untrue  reasons.  He  doubts  because  the 
Middle  Ages  were  barbaric,  but  they  weren't ; 
because  Darwinism  is  demonstrated,  but  it 
isn't ;  because  miracles  do  not  happen,  but  they 
do  ;  because  monks  were  lazy,  but  they  were 
very  industrious  ;  because  nuns  are  unhappy, 
but  they  are  particularly  cheerful  ;  because 
Christian  art  was  sad  and  pale,  but  it  was 
picked  out  in  peculiarly  bright  colours  and  gay 
with  gold  ;  because  modern  science  is  moving 
away  from  the  supernatural,  but  it  isn't,  it 
is  moving  towards  the  supernatural  with  the 
rapidity  of  a  railway  train. 

But  among  these  million  facts  all  flowing  one 
way  there  is,  of  course,  one  question  sufficiently 
solid  and  separate  to  be  treated  briefly,  but  by 



itself;  I  mean  the  objective  occurrence  of  the 
supernatural.  In  another  chapter  I  have  in- 
dicated the  fallacy  of  the  ordinary  supposition 
that  the  world  must  be  impersonal  because  it  is 
orderly.  A  person  is  just  as  likely  to  desire 
an  orderly  thing  as  a  disorderly  thing.  But 
my  own  positive  conviction  that  personal 
creation  is  more  conceivable  than  material  fate, 
is,  I  admit,  in  a  sense,  undiscussable.  I  will  not 
call  it  a  faith  or  an  intuition,  for  those  words 
are  mixed  up  with  mere  emotion,  it  is  strictly  an 
intellectual  conviction  ;  but  it  is  a  primary  intel- 
lectual conviction  like  the  certainty  of  self  or 
the  good  of  living.  Any  one  who  likes,  there- 
fore, may  call  my  belief  in  God  merely  mystical  ; 
the  phrase  is  not  worth  fighting  about.  But 
my  belief  that  miracles  have  happened  in 
human  history  is  not  a  mystical  belief  at  all ; 
I  believe  in  them  upon  human  evidence  as  1 
do  in  the  discovery  of  America.  Upon  this 
point  there  is  a  simple  logical  fact  that  only 
requires  to  be  stated  and  cleared  up.  Somehow 
or  other  an  extraordinary  idea  has  arisen  that 
the  disbelievers  in  miracles  consider  them  coldly 
and  fairly,  while  believers  in  miracles  accept 
them  only  in  connection  with  some  dogma. 
The  fact  is  quite  the  other  way.  The 
believers  in  miracles  accept  them   (rightly  or 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

wrongly)  because  they  have  evidence  for  them. 
The  disbelievers  in  miracles  deny  them  (rightly 
or  wrongly)  because  they  have  a  doctrine  against 
them.  The  open,  obvious,  democratic  thing  is 
to  believe  an  old  apple-woman  when  she  bears 
testimony  to  a  miracle,  just  as  you  believe  an 
old  apple-woman  when  she  bears  testimony  to 
a  murder.  The  plain,  popular  course  is  to  trust 
the  peasant's  word  about  the  ghost  exactly  as 
far  as  you  trust  the  peasant's  word  about  the 
landlord.  Being  a  peasant  he  will  probably 
have  a  great  deal  of  healthy  agnosticism  about 
both.  Still  you  could  fill  the  British  Museum 
with  evidence  uttered  by  the  peasant,  and 
given  in  favour  of  the  ghost.  If  it  comes  to 
human  testimony  there  is  a  choking  cataract 
of  human  testimony  in  favour  of  the  super- 
natural. If  you  reject  it,  you  can  only 
mean  one  of  two  things.  You  reject  the 
peasant's  story  about  the  ghost  either  because 
the  man  is  a  peasant  or  because  the  story  is  a 
ghost  story.  That  is,  you  either  deny  the  main 
principle  of  democracy,  or  you  affirm  the  main 
principle  of  materialism  —  the  abstract  im- 
possibility of  miracle.  You  have  a  perfect 
right  to  do  so  ;  but  in  that  case  you  are  the 
dogmatist.  It  is  we  Christians  who  accept  all 
actual    evidence — it    is    you    rationalists    who 



refuse  actual  evidence,  being  constrained  to  do 
so  by  your  creed.  But  I  am  not  constrained 
by  any  creed  in  the  matter,  and  looking  im- 
partially into  certain  miracles  of  mediaeval  and 
modern  times,  I  have  come  to  the  conclusion 
that  they  occurred.  All  argument  against  these 
plain  facts  is  always  argument  in  a  circle.  If 
I  say,  "  Mediaeval  documents  attest  certain 
miracles  as  much  as  they  attest  certain  battles," 
they  answer,  "But  mediaevals  were  super- 
stitious "  ;  if  I  want  to  know  in  what  they 
were  superstitious,  the  only  ultimate  answer  is 
that  they  believed  in  the  miracles.  If  I  say 
"  a  peasant  saw  a  ghost,"  I  am  told,  "  But 
peasants  are  so  credulous."  If  I  ask,  "  Why 
credulous  ?  "  the  only  answer  is — that  they  see 
ghosts.  Iceland  is  impossible  because  only  stupid 
sailors  have  seen  it ;  and  the  sailors  are 
only  stupid  because  they  say  they  have  seen 
Iceland.  It  is  only  fair  to  add  that  there  is 
another  argument  that  the  unbeliever  may 
rationally  use  against  miracles,  though  he  him- 
self generally  forgets  to  use  it. 

He  may  say  that  there  has  been  in  many 
miraculous  stories  a  notion  of  spiritual  pre- 
paration and  acceptance  :  in  short,  that  the 
miracle  could  only  come  to  him  who  believed 
in  it.     It  may  be  so,  and  if  it  is  so  how  are 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

we  to  test  it  ?  If  we  are  inquiring  whether 
certain  results  follow  faith,  it  is  useless  to 
repeat  wearily  that  (if  they  happen)  they  do 
follow  faith.  If  faith  is  one  of  the  conditions, 
those  without  faith  have  a  most  healthy  right 
to  laugh.  But  they  have  no  right  to  judge. 
Being  a  believer  may  be,  if  you  like,  as  bad 
as  being  drunk  ;  still  if  we  were  extracting 
psychological  facts  from  drunkards,  it  would  be 
absurd  to  be  always  taunting  them  with  having 
been  drunk.  Suppose  we  were  investigating 
whether  angry  men  really  saw  a  red  mist  before 
their  eyes.  Suppose  sixty  excellent  house- 
holders swore  that  when  angry  they  had  seen 
this  crimson  cloud  :  surely  it  would  be  ab- 
surd to  answer  "  Oh,  but  you  admit  you  were 
angry  at  the  time."  They  might  reasonably 
rejoin  (in  a  stentorian  chorus),  c<  How  the 
blazes  could  we  discover,  without  being  angry, 
whether  angry  people  see  red  ? "  So  the 
saints  and  ascetics  might  rationally  reply, 
"  Suppose  that  the  question  is  whether  be- 
lievers can  see  visions — even  then,  if  you 
are  interested  in  visions  it  is'  no  point  to 
object  to  believers."  You  are  still  arguing  in 
a  circle — in  that  old  mad  circle  with  which 
this  book  began. 

The  question  of  whether  miracles  ever  occur 



is  a  question  of  common  sense  and  of  ordinary 
historical  imagination  :  not  of  any  final  physical 
experiment.  One  may  here  surely  dismiss  that 
quite  brainless  piece  of  pedantry  which  talks 
about  the  need  for  "  scientific  conditions "  in 
connection  with  alleged  spiritual  phenomena. 
If  we  are  asking  whether  a  dead  soul  can  com- 
municate with  a  living  it  is  ludicrous  to  insist 
that  it  shall  be  under  conditions  in  which  no 
two  living  souls  in  their  senses  would  seriously 
communicate  with  each  other.  The  fact  that 
ghosts  prefer  darkness  no  more  disproves  the 
existence  of  ghosts  than  the  fact  that  lovers 
prefer  darkness  disproves  the  existence  of  love. 
If  you  choose  to  say,  "I  will  believe  that  Miss 
Brown  called  her  fianci  a  periwinkle  or  any 
other  endearing  term,  if  she  will  repeat  the  word 
before  seventeen  psychologists,"  then  I  shall 
reply,  "  Very  well,  if  those  are  your  conditions, 
you  will  never  get  the  truth,  for  she  certainly 
will  not  say  it."  It  is  just  as  unscientific  as  it 
is  unphilosophical  to  be  surprised  that  in  an 
unsympathetic  atmosphere  certain  extraordinary 
sympathies  do  not  arise.  It  is  as  if  I  said  that 
I  could  not  tell  if  there  was  a  fog  because  the 
air  was  not  clear  enough  ;  or  as  if  I  insisted  on 
perfect  sunlight  in  order  to  see  a  solar  eclipse. 
As  a  common-sense  conclusion,  such  as  those 

Authority   and   the   Adventurer 

to  which  we  come  about  sex  or  about  midnight 
(well  knowing  that  many  details  must  in  their 
own  nature  be  concealed)  I  conclude  that  miracles 
do  happen.  I  am  forced  to  it  by  a  conspiracy 
of  facts  :  the  fact  that  the  men  who  encounter 
elves  or  angels  are  not  the  mystics  and  the 
morbid  dreamers,  but  fishermen,  farmers,  and 
all  men  at  once  coarse  and  cautious  ;  the  fact 
that  we  all  know  men  who  testify  to  spiritualist 
incidents  but  are  not  spiritualists  ;  the  fact  that 
science  itself  admits  such  things  more  and  more 
every  day.  Science  will  even  admit  the  Ascen- 
sion if  you  call  it  Levitation,  and  will  very 
likely  admit  the  Resurrection  when  it  has 
thought  of  another  word  for  it,  I  suggest  the 
Regalvanisation.  But  the  strongest  of  all  is 
the  dilemma  above  mentioned,  that  these  super- 
natural things  are  never  denied  except  on  the 
basis  either  of  anti-democracy  or  of  materialist 
dogmatism — 1  may  say  materialist  mysticism. 
The  sceptic  always  takes  one  of  the  two  posi- 
tions ;  either  an  ordinary  man  need  not  be 
believed,  or  an  extraordinary  event  must  not  be 
believed.  For  I  hope  we  may  dismiss  the 
argument  against  wonders  attempted  in  the 
mere  recapitulation  of  frauds,  of  swindling 
mediums  or  trick  miracles.  That  is  not  an 
argument  at  all,  good  or  bad.     A  false  ghost 

281  k2 


disproves  the  reality  of  ghosts  exactly  as  much 
as  a  forged  banknote  disproves  the  existence  of 
the  Bank  of  England — if  anything,  it  proves 
its  existence. 

Given  this  conviction  that  the  spiritual  phe- 
nomena do  occur  (my  evidence  for  which  is 
complex  but  rational),  we  then  collide  with  one 
of  the  worst  mental  evils  of  the  age.  The 
greatest  disaster  of  the  nineteenth  century 
was  this  :  that  men  began  to  use  the  word 
"spiritual"  as  the  same  as  the  word  "good." 
They  thought  that  to  grow  in  refinement  and 
uncorporeality  was  to  grow  in  virtue.  When 
scientific  evolution  was  announced,  some  feared 
that  it  would  encourage  mere  animality.  It  did 
worse  :  it  encouraged  mere  spirituality.  It 
taught  men  to  think  that  so  long  as  they  were 
passing  from  the  ape  they  were  going  to  the 
angel.  But  you  can  pass  from  the  ape  and  go 
to  the  devil.  A  man  of  genius,  very  typical  of 
that  time  of  bewilderment,  expressed  it  per- 
fectly. Benjamin  Disraeli  was  right  when  he 
said  he  was  on  the  side  of  the  angels.  He  was 
indeed  ;  he  was  on  the  side  of  the  fallen  angels. 
He  was  not  on  the  side  of  any  mere  appetite  or 
animal  brutality  ;  but  he  was  on  the  side  of  all 
the  imperialism  of  the  princes  of  the  abyss  ;  he 
was  on  the  side  of  arrogance  and  mystery,  and 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

contempt  of  all  obvious  good.  Between  this 
sunken  pride  and  the  towering  humilities  of 
heaven  there  are,  one  must  suppose,  spirits  of 
shapes  and  sizes.  Man,  in  encountering  them, 
must  make  much  the  same  mistakes  that  he 
makes  in  encountering  any  other  varied  types 
in  any  other  distant  continent.  It  must  be 
hard  at  first  to  know  who  is  supreme  and  who 
is  subordinate.  If  a  shade  arose  from  the 
under  world,  and  stared  at  Piccadilly,  that 
shade  would  not  quite  understand  the  idea  of 
an  ordinary  closed  carriage.  He  would  sup- 
pose that  the  coachman  on  the  box  was  a 
triumphant  conqueror,  dragging  behind  him  a 
kicking  and  imprisoned  captive.  So,  if  we  see 
spiritual  facts  for  the  first  time,  we  may  mis- 
take who  is  uppermost.  It  is  not  enough  to 
find  the  gods  ;  they  are  obvious  ;  we  must 
find  God,  the  real  chief  of  the  gods.  We  must 
have  a  long  historic  experience  in  supernatural 
phenomena — in  order  to  discover  which  are 
really  natural.  In  this  light  I  find  the  history 
of  Christianity,  and  even  of  its  Hebrew  origins, 
quite  practical  and  clear.  It  does  not  trouble 
me  to  be  told  that  the  Hebrew  god  was  one 
among  many.  I  know  he  was,  without  any 
research  to  tell  me  so,  Jehovah  and  Baal 
looked  equally  important,  just  as  the  sun  and 



the  moon  looked  the  same  size.  It  is  only 
slowly  that  we  learn  that  the  sun  is  immeasur- 
ably our  master,  and  the  small  moon  only  our 
satellite.  Believing  that  there  is  a  world  of 
spirits,  I  shall  walk  in  it  as  I  do  in  the  world  of 
men,  looking  for  the  thing  that  1  like  and  think 
good.  Just  as  I  should  seek  in  a  desert  for  clean 
water,  or  toil  at  the  North  Pole  to  make  a  com- 
fortable fire,  so  I  shall  search  the  land  of  void  and 
vision  until  I  find  something  fresh  like  water, 
and  comforting  like  fire  ;  until  I  find  some 
place  in  eternity,  where  I  am  literally  at  home. 
And  there  is  only  one  such  place  to  be  found. 

I  have  now  said  enough  to  show  (to  any  one 
to  whom  such  an  explanation  is  essential)  that 
I  have  in  the  ordinary  arena  of  apologetics,  a 
ground  of  belief.  In  pure  records  of  experi- 
ment (if  these  be  taken  democratically  without 
contempt  or  favour)  there  is  evidence  first, 
that  miracles  happen,  and  second  that  the 
nobler  miracles  belong  to  our  tradition.  But 
I  will  not  pretend  that  this  curt  discussion  is 
my  real  reason  for  accepting  Christianity  instead 
of  taking  the  moral  good  of  Christianity  as  I 
should  take  it  out  of  Confucianism. 

I  have  another  far  more  solid  and  central 
ground  for  submitting  to  it  as  a  faith,  in- 
stead of  merely  picking  up  hints  from  it  as  a 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

scheme.  And  that  is  this  :  that  the  Christian 
Church  in  its  practical  relation  to  my  soul  is  a 
living  teacher,  not  a  dead  one.  It  not  only 
certainly  taught  me  yesterday,  but  will  almost 
certainly  teach  me  to-morrow.  Once  I  saw 
suddenly  the  meaning  of  the  shape  of  the  cross  ; 
some  day  I  may  see  suddenly  the  meaning  of 
the  shape  of  the  mitre.  One  fine  morning  I 
saw  why  windows  were  pointed  ;  some  fine 
morning  I  may  see  why  priests  were  shaven. 
Plato  has  told  you  a  truth  ;  but  Plato  is  dead. 
Shakespeare  has  startled  you  with  an  image  ; 
but  Shakespeare  will  not  startle  you  with  any 
more.  But  imagine  what  it  would  be  to  live 
with  such  men  still  living,  to  know  that  Plato 
might  break  out  with  an  original  lecture  to- 
morrow, or  that  at  any  moment  Shakespeare 
might  shatter  everything  with  a  single  song. 
The  man  who  lives  in  contact  with  what  he 
believes  to  be  a  living  Church  is  a  man  always 
expecting  to  meet  Plato  and  Shakespeare  to- 
morrow at  breakfast.  He  is  always  expecting 
to  see  some  truth  that  he  has  never  seen 
before.  There  is  one  only  other  parallel  to 
this  position  ;  and  that  is  the  parallel  of  the 
life  in  which  we  all  began.  When  your 
father  told  you,  walking  about  the  garden,  that 
bees  stung  or  that  roses  smelt  sweet,  you  did 



not  talk  of  taking  the  best  out  of  his  philosophy. 
When  the  bees  stung  you,  you  did  not  call  it 
an  entertaining  coincidence.  When  the  rose 
smelt  sweet  you  did  not  say  "  My  father  is  a 
rude,  barbaric  symbol,  enshrining  (perhaps  un- 
consciously) the  deep  delicate  truths  that  flowers 
smell."  No  :  you  believed  your  father,  because 
you  had  found  him  to  be  a  living  fountain  of 
facts,  a  thing  that  really  knew  more  than  you  ; 
a  thing  that  would  tell  you  truth  to-morrow, 
as  well  as  to-day.  And  if  this  was  true  of  your 
father,  it  was  even  truer  of  your  mother  ;  at 
least  it  was  true  of  mine,  to  whom  this  book  is 
dedicated.  Now,  when  society  is  in  a  rather 
futile  fuss  about  the  subjection  of  women,  will 
no  one  say  how  much  every  man  owes  to  the 
tyranny  and  privilege  of  women,  to  the  fact 
that  they  alone  rule  education  until  education 
becomes  futile  :  for  a  boy  is  only  sent  to  be 
taught  at  school  when  it  is  too  late  to  teach 
him  anything.  The  real  thing  has  been  done 
already,  and  thank  God  it  1$  nearly  always  done 
by  women.  Every  man  is  womanised,  merely 
by  being  born.  They  talk  of  the  masculine 
woman  ;  but  every  man  is  a  feminised  man. 
And  if  ever  men  walk  to  Westminster  to  protest 
against  this  female  privilege,  I  shall  not  join 
their  procession. 

Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

For  I  remember  with  certainty  this  fixed 
psychological  fuct  ;  that  the  very  time  when 
1  was  most  under  a  woman's  authority,  I  was 
most  full  of  flame  and  adventure.  Exactly 
because  when  my  mother  said  that  ants  bit 
they  did  bite,  and  because  snow  did  come  in 
winter  (as  she  said)  ;  therefore  the  whole  world 
was  to  me  a  fairyland  of  wonderful  fulfilments, 
and  it  was  like  living  in  some  Hebraic  age, 
when  prophecy  after  prophecy  came  true.  I 
went  out  as  a  child  into  the  garden,  and  it  was 
a  terrible  place  to  me,  precisely  because  I  had  a 
clue  to  it  :  if  I  had  held  no  clue  it  would  not 
have  been  terrible,  but  tame.  A  mere  unmean- 
ing wilderness  is  not  even  impressive.  But  the 
garden  of  childhood  was  fascinating,  exactly 
because  everything  had  a  fixed  meaning  which 
could  be  found  out  in  its  turn.  Inch  by  inch 
I  might  discover  what  was  the  object  of  the 
ugly  shape  called  a  rake  ;  or  form  some  shadowy 
conjecture  as  to  why  my  parents  kept  a  cat. 

So,  since  I  have  accepted  Christendom  as 
a  mother  and  not  merely  as  a  chance  example, 
I  have  found  Europe  and  the  world  once 
more  like  the  little  garden  where  I  stared  at 
the  symbolic  shapes  of  cat  and  rake ;  I 
look  at  everything  with  the  old  elvish  igno- 
rance  and    expectancy.     This    or   that  rite  or 



doctrine  may  look  as  ugly  and  extraordinary 
as  a  rake  ;  but  I  have  found  by  experience 
that  such  things  end  somehow  in  grass  and 
flowers.  A  clergyman  may  be  apparently  as 
useless  as  a  cat,  but  he  is  also  as  fascinating, 
for  there  must  be  some  strange  reason  for 
his  existence.  I  give  one  instance  out  of 
a  hundred  ;  I  have  not  myself  any  instinc- 
tive kinship  with  that  enthusiasm  for  physical 
virginity,  which  has  certainly  been  a  note 
of  historic  Christianity.  But  when  I  look 
not  at  myself  but  at  the  world,  I  perceive 
that  this  enthusiasm  is  not  only  a  note  of 
Christianity,  but  a  note  of  Paganism,  a  note  of 
high  human  nature  in  many  spheres.  The 
Greeks  felt  virginity  when  they  carved  Artemis, 
the  Romans  when  they  robed  the  vestals,  the 
worst  and  wildest  of  the  great  Elizabethan 
playwrights  clung  to  the  literal  punty  of  a 
woman  as  to  the  central  pillar  of  the  world. 
Above  all,  the  modern  world  (even  while 
mocking  sexual  innocence)  has  flung  itself 
into  a  generous  idolatry  of  sexual  innocence 
—  the  great  modern  worship  of  children. 
For  any  man  who  loves  children  will  agree 
that  their  peculiar  beauty  is  hurt  by  a  hint  of 
physical  sex.  With  all  this  human  experience, 
allied  with   the   Christian    authority,   I   simply 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

conclude  that  I  am  wrong,  and  the  church 
right  ;  or  rather  that  1  am  defective,  while  the 
church  is  universal.  It  takes  all  sorts  to  make 
a  church  ;  she  does  not  ask  me  to  be  celibate. 
But  the  fact  that  I  have  no  appreciation  of 
the  celibates,  I  accept  like  the  fact  that  I  have 
no  ear  for  music.  The  best  human  experi- 
ence is  against  me,  as  it  is  on  the  subject  of 
Bach.  Celibacy  is  one  flower  in  my  father's 
garden,  of  which  I  have  not  been  told  the 
sweet  or  terrible  name.  But  I  may  be  told  it 
any  day. 

This,  therefore,  is,  in  conclusion,  my  reason 
for  accepting  the  religion  and  not  merely  the 
scattered  and  secular  truths  out  of  the  religion. 
I  do  it  because  the  thing  has  not  merely  told 
this  truth  or  that  truth,  but  has  revealed  itself 
as  a  truth-telling  thing.  All  other  philosophies 
say  the  things  that  plainly  seem  to  be  true  ; 
only  this  philosophy  has  again  and  again  said 
the  thing  that  does  not  seem  to  be  true,  but  is 
true.  Alone  of  all  creeds  it  is  convincing 
where  it  is  not  attractive  ;  it  turns  out  to  be 
right,  like  my  father  in  the  garden.  Theo- 
sophists,  for  instance,  will  preach  an  obviously 
attractive  idea  like  re-incarnation  ;  but  if  we 
wait  for  its  logical  results,  they  are  spiritual 
superciliousness     and     the     cruelty     of    caste. 



For  if  a  man  is  a  beggar  by  his  own  pre-natal 
sins,  people  will  tend  to  despise  the  beggar. 
But  Christianity  preaches  an  obviously  un- 
attractive idea,  such  as  original  sin  ;  but  when 
we  wait  for  its  results,  they  are  pathos  and 
brotherhood,  and  a  thunder  of  laughter  and 
pity  ;  for  only  with  original  sin  we  can  at  once 
pity  the  beggar  and  distrust  the  king.  Men  of 
science  offer  us  health,  an  obvious  benefit  ;  it 
is  only  afterwards  that  we  discover  that  by 
health,  they  mean  bodily  slavery  and  spiritual 
tedium.  Orthodoxy  makes  us  jump  by  the 
sudden  brink  of  hell  ;  it  is  only  afterwards  that 
we  realise  that  jumping  was  an  athletic  exercise 
highly  beneficial  to  our  health.  It  is  only 
afterwards  that  we  realise  that  this  danger  is 
the  root  of  all  drama  and  romance.  The 
strongest  argument  for  the  divine  grace  is 
simply  its  ungraciousness.  The  unpopular 
parts  of  Christianity  turn  out  when  examined 
to  be  the  very  props  of  the  people.  The  outer 
ring  of  Christianity  is  a  rigid  guard  of  ethical 
abnegations  and  professional  priests  ;  but  inside 
that  inhuman  guard  you  will  find  the  old 
human  life  dancing  like  children,  and  drinking 
wine  like  men  ;  for  Christianity  is  the  only 
frame  for  pagan  freedom.  But  in  the  modern 
philosophy  the  case  is  opposite  ;  it  is  its  outer 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

ring  that  is  obviously  artistic  and   emancipated  ; 
its  despair  is  within. 

And  its  despair  is  this,  that  it  does  not  really 
believe  that  there  is  any  meaning  in  the 
universe  ;  therefore  it  cannot  hope  to  find 
any  romance  ;  its  romances  will  have  no  plots. 
A  man  cannot  expect  any  adventures  in  the 
land  of  anarchy.  But  a  man  can  expect  any 
number  of  adventures  if  he  goes  travelling 
in  the  land  of  authority.  One  can  find  no 
meanings  in  a  jungle  of  scepticism  ;  but  the 
man  will  find  more  and  more  meanings  who 
walks  through  a  forest  of  doctrine  and  design. 
Here  everything  has  a  story  tied  to  its  tail, 
like  the  tools  or  pictures  in  my  father's  house  ; 
for  it  is  my  father's  house.  I  end  where  I 
began — at  the  right  end.  I  have  entered  at 
least  the  gate  of  all  good  philosophy.  I  have 
come  into  my  second  childhood. 

But  this  larger  and  more  adventurous 
Christian  universe  has  one  final  mark  difficult 
to  express  ;  yet  as  a  conclusion  of  the  whole 
matter  I  will  attempt  to  express  it.  All  the 
real  argument  about  religion  turns  on  the 
question  of  whether  a  man  who  was  born  up- 
side down  can  tell  when  he  comes  right  way 
up.  The  primary  paradox  of  Christianity  is 
that  the  ordinary  condition  of  man  is  not  his 



sane  or  sensible  condition  ;  that  the  normal 
itself  is  an  abnormality.  That  is  the  inmost 
philosophy  of  the  Fall.  In  Sir  Oliver  Lodge's 
interesting  new  Catechism,  the  first  two 
questions  were  :  "  What  are  you  ?  "  and 
"What,  then,  is  the  meaning  of  the  Fall  of 
Man  ? "  I  remember  amusing  myself  by 
writing  my  own  answers  to  the  questions  ;  but 
I  soon  found  that  they  were  very  broken  and 
agnostic  answers.  To  the  question,  "  What  are 
you  ?  "  I  could  only  answer,  "  God  knows." 
And  to  the  question,  "  What  is  meant  by  the 
Fall  ?  "  I  could  answer  with  complete  sincerity, 
"  That  whatever  I  am,  I  am  not  myself."  This 
is  the  prime  paradox  of  our  religion  ;  some- 
thing that  we  have  never  in  any  full  sense 
known,  is  not  only  better  than  ourselves,  but 
even  more  natural  to  us  than  ourselves.  And 
there  is  really  no  test  of  this  except  the  merely 
experimental  one  with  which  these  pages  began, 
the  test  of  the  padded  cell  and  the  open  door. 
It  is  only  since  I  have  knowii  orthodoxy  that  I 
have  known  mental  emancipation.  But,  in 
conclusion,  it  has  one  special  application  to  the 
ultimate  idea  of  joy. 

It  is  said  that  Paganism  is  a  religion  of  joy 
and  Christianity  of  sorrow  ;  it  would  be  just  as 
easy  to  prove  that  Paganism  is  pure  sorrow  and 


Authority  and  the   Adventurer 

Christianity  pure  joy.  Such  conflicts  mean 
nothing  and  lead  nowhere.  Everything  human 
must  have  in  it  both  joy  and  sorrow  ;  the  only 
matter  of  interest  is  the  manner  in  which  the 
two  things  are  balanced  or  divided.  And  the 
really  interesting  thing  is  this,  that  the  pagan 
was  (in  the  main)  happier  and  happier  as  he 
approached  the  earth,  but  sadder  and  sadder  as 
he  approached  the  heavens.  The  gaiety  of  the 
best  Paganism,  as  in  the  playfulness  of  Catullus 
or  Theocritus,  is,  indeed,  an  eternal  gaiety  never 
to  be  forgotten  by  a  grateful  humanity.  But 
it  is  all  a  gaiety  about  the  facts  of  life,  not 
about  its  origin.  To  the  pagan  the  small 
things  are  as  sweet  as  the  small  brooks  breaking 
out  of  the  mountain  ;  but  the  broad  things  are 
as  bitter  as  the  sea.  When  the  pagan  looks  at 
the  very  core  of  the  cosmos  he  is  struck  cold. 
Behind  the  gods,  who  are  merely  despotic,  sit 
the  fates,  who  are  deadly.  Nay,  the  fates  are 
worse  than  deadly  ;  they  are  dead.  And  when 
rationalists  say  that  the  ancient  world  was  more 
enlightened  than  the  Christian,  from  their  point 
of  view  they  are  right.  For  when  they  say 
"  enlightened  "  they  mean  darkened  with  incur- 
able despair.  It  is  profoundly  true  that  the  ancient 
world  was  more  modern  than  the  Christian. 
The  common  bond  is  in  the  fact  that  ancients 



and  moderns  have  both  been  miserable  about 
existence,  about  everything,  while  mediaevals 
were  happy  about  that  at  least.  I  freely  grant 
that  the  pagans,  like  the  moderns,  were  only 
miserable  about  everything — they  were  quite 
jolly  about  everything  else.  I  concede  that  the 
Christians  of  the  Middle  Ages  were  only  at  peace 
about  everything — they  were  at  war  about 
everything  else.  But  if  the  question  turn  on 
the  primary  pivot  of  the  cosmos,  then  there 
was  more  cosmic  contentment  in  the  narrow 
and  bloody  streets  of  Florence  than  in  the 
theatre  of  Athens  or  the  open  garden  of 
Epicurus.  Giotto  lived  in  a  gloomier  town 
than  Euripides,  but  he  lived  in  a  gayer  universe. 
The  mass  of  men  have  been  forced  to  be  gay 
about  the  little  things,  but  sad  about  the  big 
ones.  Nevertheless  (I  offer  my  last  dogma 
defiantly)  it  is  not  native  to  man  to  be  so. 
Man  is  more  himself,  man  is  more  manlike, 
when  joy  is  the  fundamental  thing  in  him,  and 
grief  the  superficial.  Melancholy  should  be  an 
innocent  interlude,  a  tender  and  fugitive  frame 
of  mind  ;  praise  should  be  the  permanent 
pulsation  of  the  soul.  Pessimism  is  at  best  an 
emotional  half-holiday ;  joy  is  the  uproarious 
labour  by  which  all  things  live.  Yet,  according 
to  the  apparent  estate  of  man  as  seen  by  the 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

pagan  or  the  agnostic,  this  primary  need  of 
human  nature  can  never  he  fulfilled.  Joy  ought 
to  be  expansive  ;  but  for  the  agnostic  it  must 
be  contracted,  it  must  cling  to  one  corner  of 
the  world.  Grief  ought  to  be  a  concentration  ; 
but  for  the  agnostic  its  desolation  is  spread 
through  an  unthinkable  eternity.  This  is  what 
I  call  being  born  upside  down.  The  sceptic 
may  truly  be  said  to  be  topsy-turvy  ;  for  his 
feet  are  dancing  upwards  in  idle  ecstacies,  while 
his  brain  is  in  the  abyss.  To  the  modern  man 
the  heavens  are  actually  below  the  earth.  The 
explanation  is  simple  ;  he  is  standing  on  his 
head  ;  which  is  a  very  weak  pedestal  to  stand 
on.  But  when  he  has  found  his  feet  again  he 
knows  it.  Christianity  satisfies  suddenly  and 
perfectly  man's  ancestral  instinct  for  being  the 
right  way  up  ;  satisfies  it  supremely  in  this  ; 
that  by  its  creed  joy  becomes  something  gigantic 
and  sadness  something  special  and  small.  The 
vault  above  us  is  not  deaf  because  the  universe 
is  an  idiot  ;  the  silence  is  not  the  heartless 
silence  of  an  endless  and  aimless  world.  Rather 
the  silence  around  us  is  a  small  and  pitiful 
stillness  like  the  prompt  stillness  in  a  sick  room. 
We  are  perhaps  permitted  tragedy  as  a  sort  of 
merciful  comedy  :  because  the  frantic  energy 
of  divine  things  would  knock  us  down  like  a 



drunken  farce.  We  can  take  our  own  tears 
more  lightly  than  we  could  take  the  tremendous 
levities  of  the  angels.  So  we  sit  perhaps  in  a 
starry  chamber  of  silence,  while  the  laughter  of 
the  heavens  is  too  loud  for  us  to  hear. 

Joy,  which  was  the  small  publicity  of  the 
pagan,  is  the  gigantic  secret  of  the  Christian. 
And  as  I  close  this  chaotic  volume  I  open  again 
the  strange  small  book  from  which  all  Chris- 
tianity came ;  and  I  am  again  haunted  by  a 
kind  of  confirmation.  The  tremendous  figure 
which  fills  the  Gospels  towers  in  this  respect, 
as  in  every  other,  above  all  the  thinkers  who 
ever  thought  themselves  tall.  His  pathos  was 
natural,  almost  casual.  The  Stoics,  ancient  and 
modern,  were  proud  of  concealing  their  tears. 
He  never  concealed  His  tears  ;  He  showed 
them  plainly  on  His  open  face  at  any  daily 
sight,  such  as  the  far  sight  of  His  native  city. 
Yet  He  concealed  something.  Solemn  super- 
men and  imperial  diplomatists  are  proud  of 
restraining  their  anger.  He  never  restrained 
His  anger.  He  flung  furniture  down  the  front 
steps  of  the  Temple,  and  asked  men  how  they 
expected  to  escape  the  damnation  of  Hell. 
Yet  He  restrained  something.  I  say  it  with 
reverence  ;  there  was  in  that  shattering  per- 
sonality a  thread  that  must  be  called  shyness. 


Authority  and  the  Adventurer 

There  was  something  that  He  hid  from  all  men 
when  He  went  up  a  mountain  to  pray.  There 
was  something  that  He  covered  constantly  by 
abrupt  silence  or  impetuous  isolation.  There 
was  some  one  thing  that  was  too  great  for  God 
to  show  us  when  He  walked  upon  our  earth  ; 
and  I  have  sometimes  fancied  that  it  was  His 



A  new  scries  of  reprints  of*  books  of  ettabli  bed  repu- 
tation attractively  produced   in  uniform   style   and   m 
a  size  suitable  for  travel  or  bedside  reading.      Fool 
8vo.      3/.  6d.  net  each  volume. 



Richard  Garnett.     With    an    Introduc- 
tion by  T.  E.   Lawrence. 

HORTUS    VITAE.     By  Vernon  Lee. 

ORTHODOXY.     By  G.  K.  Chesterton. 

SCHOLAR-GIPSIES.     By  John  Buchan. 

FRANCE.  Arranged,  with  a  Foreword, 
by  J.  Lewis  May. 

TRATE:    First    Series.      By     Captain 

C.    A.    W.    MONCKTON. 

TRATE :  Second  Series.  By  Captain 
C.  A.  W.  Monckton. 


Vernon  Lee. 

JOHN  LANE  THE  BODLEY  HEAD  LTD.,  Vigo  St.,  W.i 


A  new  thin  paper  edition.    Foolscap  8vo.    Cloth. 
3  j.  6 d.  net  each  volume. 












JOHN  LANE  THE  BODLEY  HEAD  LTD.,  Vigo  St.,  W.i 

BY     THE     SAME     AUTHOR 


Crown  8vo.      5J*.  net. 

Daily  Telegraph. — M  Mr.  Chesterton  is  an  original  and 
unconventional  thinker.  These  papers  are  in  his  accus- 
tomed vein  ;  bright,  whimsical,  clever,  and  amusing." 

Daily  News. — "  There  is  here  all  that  joyfulness  in 
action,  easy  brilliance,  and  skill  at  the  presentation  of  a 
case  which  have  made  this  writer  so  delightful  a  con- 
troversialist. " 

Manchester  Guardian. — "  Thoroughly  sane  and  virile. " 

Evening  Standard. — "  Mr.  Chesterton's  intellectual  gam- 
bols are  an  increasing  joy." 

Graphic. — "  The  brilliant  maker  of  paradox  finds  abun- 
dant scope  for  his  wayward  and  delightful  humour  in  his 
present  volume.  .  .  .  Every  page  contains  some  witty- 
phrase,  some  daring  flight  of  fancy,  or  some  startling  turn 
of  thought." 

Clarion. — "A  collection  of  delightful  essays  bristling  with 
epigrams  and  flashes  of  humour.  ...  A  clever,  healthy, 
inspiring  book,  and  will  greatiy  add  to  the  reputation  the 
author  has  already  won  by  his  *  Napoleon  of  Notting 
Hill.' " 

Weekly  Scotsman. — "  This  brilliant  book  .  .  .  scintillat- 
ing epigrams  and  unorthodox  thought." 

Newcastle  Daily  Chronicle. — "A  volume  which  makes 
delightful  reading,  and  the  more  delightful  because  it  is 
impossible  to  read  it  without  encountering  in  every  page 
— in  every  phrase  almost — abundant  food  for  thought 
...  his  brilliant  wit,  his  verbal  and  mental  agility  are  as 
evident  as  they  are  in  everything  he  writes." 

JOHN  LANE  THE  BODLEY  HEAD  LTD.,  Vigo  St.,  W.i 

BY    THE     SAME     AUTHOR 


With  Seven  Illustrations  and  a  Cover  Design  by 
W.  Graham  Robertson,  and  a  Map  of  the 
Seat  of  War.     Crown  8vo.     js.  net  and  is.  net. 

Mr.  James  Douglas,  in  the  Star. — "An  allegorical 
romance,  a  didactic  fantasy,  a  humorous  whimsy.  It  is 
not  easy  to  say  what  it  means ;  Mr.  Chesterton  himself 
probably  does  not  know." 

Daily  Mail. — "Mr.  Chesterton,  as  our  laughing  philo- 
sopher, is  at  his  best  in  this  delightful  fantasy." 

Westminster  Gazette. — "It  is  undeniably  clever.  It 
scintillates — that  is  exactly  the  right  word — with  bright 
and  epigrammatic  observations,  and  it  is  written  through- 
out with  undoubted  literary  skill." 

Daily  Chronicle. — "It  is  quite  needless  to  know  what 
Mr.  Chesterton  means.  All  that  concerns  us  is  that  he 
has  written  a  vastly  entertaining  book,  which  should  be 
breathlessly  enjoyed  at  Notting  Hill  and  elsewhere." 

Daily  News. — "  If  the  test  of  the  success  of  any  book 
is  the  pleasure  it  gives  in  the  reading,  this  first  novel  of 
Mr.  Chesterton  must  be  pronounced  a  veritable  triumph. 
The  book  is  at  once  a  fantastic  romance,  a  rich  mine  of 
humour,  and  a  kind  of  allegory  of  all  the  contentions 
which  the  author  has  been  maintaining  so  trenchandy 
since  his  first  appearance  in  literature." 

JOHN  LANE  THE  BODLEY  HEAD  LTD.,  Vigo  St.,  W.i 



Crown  8vo.       5/.  net. 
Also  a  Cheap  Edition.      Cloth,  is.  net. 


Mr.  James  Douglas,  in  the  Star. — "The 
most  amusing  book  of  the  year.  Its  cleverness 
is  stupendous,  and  its  controversial  ingenuity 

Morning  Post. — "  This  book  is  at  once  appre- 
ciative and  polemical.  He  has  taken  a  serious 
man  seriously.  It  is,  in  short,  a  vital  work  ;  and 
the  author  has  never  expressed  with  more 
decision  and  humour  and  abundance  his  cwn 
vigorous  and  genial  philosophy.  In  a  word, 
this  wise  and  candid  study  of  a  remarkable  per- 
sonality is  hardly  less  impressive  for  its  rhetorical 
qualities  than  for  its  deeper  qualities  of  insight, 
spirituality,  and  good  feeling." 

Quarterly  Review. — "  The  book  is  one  that  will 
appeal  to  all  who  are  interested  in  one  of  the 
most  outstanding  personalities  of  our  time." 

Bookman. — "  The  book  is  crammed  with  good 
things,  and  contains  much  that  is  finely  sug- 
gestive, far  seeing  and  true.  There  are  few  other 
books  that  you  could  read  with  such  complete 

Daily  Graphic. — "  This  is  a  book  extra  ordinary, 
more  than  ordinary,  it  glows  and  glitters  on 
every  page.  It  is  a  book  with  a  real  object,  a 
real  plan." 

JOHN  LANE  THE  BODLEY  HEAD  LTD.,  Vigo  St.,  W.i 



SOME   PRESS   OPINIONS,  continued. 

Observer. — "  It  is  a  fine  and  generous  apprecia- 
tion, quite  as  remarkable  for  its  revelation  of  Mr. 
Chesterton  as  for  its  exposition  of  Mr.  Shaw." 

G.B.S.,  in  the  Nation. — "This  book  is  what 
everybody  expected  it  to  be,  the  best  work  of 
literary  art  I  have  yet  provoked." 

Truth. — "  This  book  on  a  paradox-monger  by 
a  paradox-monger  is  packed  with  paradoxical  wit 
and  wisdom." 

Daily  Chronicle. — cc  This  book  is  well  written, 
and  it  is  worth  reading,  but  it  is  worth  reading 
not  because  of  any  new  or  old  light  it  sheds 
upon  the  work  of  Mr.  Shaw,  but  because  of  the 
many  pleasant  things  it  says  and  the  pleasant  way 
in  which  it  says  them." 

Daily  News. — "An  admirable,  generous  and 
noble  book." 

Sheffield  Telegraph. — "  Any  reader  interested  in 
Mr.  Shaw  and  in  the  drama  will  find  the  reading 
of  this  book  a  pure  intellectual  stimulant,  as 
well  as  a  literary  treat." 

JOHN  LANE  THE  BODLEY  HEAD  LTD.,  Vigo  St.,  W.i 





1117  ■